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.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Consequence and Clarity


I'm a lot less naive than I was a year ago. I'm still naive enough to believe that I can explain something very few people might be able to understand.

I'm writing and rewriting this article over and over again. Countless forms of the same damn thing. In the end it always ends up being way too long, veering off into several directions.

This is a fool's errand, I realise. I give up. I'm just going to hope that you take it for what it is - an honest account from my side of the fence. After all.  I can't be doing the same thing over and over again, and expect a different result - can I? No. That's the definition of insanity.

Defining Insanity 

Insanity: do the same thing over and over again. Expect a different result. Spin it round and round. Now do it one more time, please. I like it like thatT. This is how the fitness industry machine works. Take a concept, dumb it down, give it the fad diet treatment, and then feed it to the masses. I, for one, knows this better than anyone else.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last few years, you've probably seen the explosive growth of interest in fasting/intermittent fasting type diets, along with its poorly written Leangains ripoffs. "Ripoff" is the understatement of the century.The 8-Hour Diet is the latest abomination, and it's no doubt the most impressive thus far. Impressive only due to the sheer idiocy and the sizeable marketing engine that drives it. If my advice is worth anything to you, I'd tell you to stay the Hell away from it. Many won't - and that's the problem. Bad PR is good PR in this wretched industry.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I can't say that I agree. I don't want to be part of this circus. Actually, I think it's downright insulting when people expect me to be excited about it. It suggests that people have an ass backwards understanding of my values, my principles and my character. I can take a lot of shit and still remain unfazed by it. But when I get lumped together with the inferior and the fake, that's when I say 'fuck it.'

Still. The 8-Hour Diet is just a drop in the ocean and it's hardly the cause of any real grief on my part. It takes a lot more than the fad diet treatment of fasting to piss me off. It takes...Well. I guess this is where I run into problems. The 'explaining' part.


Let's see. I'll try to explain, with the understanding that I don't have any hope of succeeding to convey things from my perspective. My perspective seems to be different than anyone else's, that's for damn sure.

But still, you know those artsy fartsy types that talk about "real art"? I can't help but feeling like I might come off like one of those. Sounding hard and overtly pretentious, complaining about some first world problem while sipping Chardonnay. It's my sincerest wish that I don't.

What you'll get from me here is, as usual (´cept not so usual), the no-bullshit perspective - nothing to sell, nobody to convince. Just that good ol' NO-BS Berkhan swag. Might be the last time in a good while, but who the Hell knows with me.

Anyway. Exactly one year ago to the day, I stood before same crossroad that I'm standing before today. I asked myself a question. "Left or right?" - leave or stay.

On January 6th, 2012, I wrote this.

Thought I'd drop a line to say that I might be leaving. So maybe sometime in the future means just that, like I wrote, but then people keep asking anyway. Might be in a good while or it might never be at all. So that's that.
The reasons are mainly in terms of the limits I see in this field and how everything operates around it. I like the practical get-it-done-stuff, process, what I do with clients, etc, nothing else. Well, besides the science and research, but in talking about tangible things. If you like that, you're stranded on a tiny island in an ocean of shit.
Cool story, bro. Anyway, that's not the most likely thing that'll happen, and I'll stick around for some time still. It's not like I'm taking a vacation-vacation either, because there's still clients to be maintained, stuff written, etc. But I'll try to read a few books, chill, or whatever else rare opportunity I find to...

Don't screw around too much with this fitness shit. Let the good times roll, bro, and tell 'em Old Berkhan sent 'ya.
I stayed around - just not in the way you think. I watched. And I fucked around a little bit.

What you saw was half a handful of fairly forgettable articles, relative to what I withheld. That was my mistake. I took the middle road - more so in the mind, than in the actions you saw.

Note the middle paragraph:

The reasons are mainly in terms of the limits I see in this field and how everything operates around it. I like the practical get-it-done-stuff, process, what I do with clients, etc, nothing else. Well, besides the science and research, but in talking about tangible things. If you like that, you're stranded on a tiny island in an ocean of shit.

Let me clarify what I meant by that. The limits I'm talking about, are the limits imposed on the collective ability to evaluate and appreciate scientific research and judge the value of an opinion. This has been made very clear to me in the year that passed - through several very specific examples, equally well represented by characters from the scientific community, and the new breed of broscientists who spout nonsense and lies with scientific pretences.

One standout example amidst many travesties this year came in the form of "Eat, Fast and Live Longer" by BBC Horizon, and the abrasively stupid and absurd nonsense spouted by one of the scientists (Longo). Another travesty was my witnessing of how well-received it was. I kept my mouth shut, because I wanted to see if and who could actually spot the horseshit for what it was - no one did. That was very discouraging to see - but hardly not surpsising. Let's call it a wake-up call. Several such wake-up calls presented themselves to me throughout the year.

I won't be more specific - for now.

The gist of it all is this. I find little joy in discussing/using scientific research in an environment that seems to be doing exactly the same thing as I'm doing, but they only make it sound good. The incompetent use of science stretches way beyond TV shows, way beyond the fitness community, way beyond the mainstream, and well into the scientific journals.

Science is an illusion. It preys on the fact that people can't tell who's right or wrong when the lingo gets complicated enough.

It is not the fad diet books that are the greatest problems as I see it. It's the sophisticated lie that masquerades under scientific pretensions, and comes clad in the very best of intentions.

Another problem presents in weasely characters who copy every little thing I write. They turn it into their own little profit machine - in inferior form. Needless to say, I'm not motivated to write anything truly original. Remember: I had no problem with that before. What a shame. There's so much I'd like to show you. (Seriously. I'm not being facetious - it's just demotivating to know that every original thing gets copied these days:/)

This is not an ocean of shit, my friends. This is a wasteland of the mind, and this site will always be an outpost of enlightenment. But I'm taking a break for now. I'm going right - I'm not taking the middle road this time.

Listen, I'm not really happy in the role as "the intermittent fasting guy", and can't I fool myself into thinking that I'm compatible with the existing understanding thereof (i.e. my opinion differs from the rest). Least of all, I can't pretend that I'm compatible with bullshit, bandwagon-hoping, and the disingenuine characters that drives it forth.

But my discontentment stretches way beyond that which appears to be the most obvious and simplest items of disgruntlement to most people. That's my curse, that's a riddle that I may have to leave hanging in the air for now.

I found an old newspaper clip. It's about the contest that kicked off my modelling career in the late 90's. That's me to the right, winner of the male category, along with the winning female contestant (a well-known TV reality show celebrity). In many ways, the modelling business reminds me of the fitness industry. I quit in the middle of a good career. I had it made. Why did I quit? Smiling never felt natural to me, and I was bored to tears. I could care less about money and fame over integrity and authenticity. Same reason I'm backing off this time. 

Defining Integrity

Here's a concept that is - and always - will remain of fundamental importance to me. To me. Not to others. To me, it's very important. To most people in this business, it means absolutely nothing.

It's called integrity.

Integrity is a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulnessor accuracy of one's actions. Integrity can be regarded as the opposite of hypocrisy,[1] in that integrity regards internal consistency as a virtue, and suggests that parties holding apparently conflicting values should account for the discrepancy or alter their beliefs.
The word "integrity" stems from the Latin adjective integer (whole, complete).[2] In this context, integrity is the inner sense of "wholeness" deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others "have integrity" to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
value system's abstraction depth and range of applicable interaction may also function as significant factors in identifying integrity due to their congruence or lack of congruence with observation. A value system may evolve over time[3] while retaining integrity if those who espouse the values account for and resolve inconsistencies.[4]

Integrity means that I've been doing this for 7 years now. Integrity means that I don't change my ideas just to hop on a bandwagon. Integrity means that I refine what works, and don't have 67 ways of doing the same damn thing.

To have integrity, you must have expertise. True expertise results from the drive to fix yourself - your flaw, and your obsession with it. You become an expert on fixing yourself. The itch drives expertise. The itch drives curiosity. The itch drives learning and doing. This is what makes an expert - not an "expert" in the sense that everyone's an expert these days. The itch drives mastery. 

I've come a long way. I've paid the price. I get to call myself competent. Integrity comes with competence. Integrity comes with the knowledge of your competence - and the incompetence of others. It stings my eyes. And it's everywhere.

The hate of incompetence was what drove me in my crusade against the dietary dogma of the mid-2000's. The hate of incompetence is also what drove me to make this site and put countless hours into scientific research when everyone else seemed to care for easy answers and sheepish repetitions of mantras that proved to be untrue.

Knowing that you're good at something, can be a double-edged sword. You become acutely aware of how useless everyone else is - not everyone, but a Hell of a lot more than you'd ever expected. If you let it get to you - and I will, for better or worse - it leads to a lot of anger and frustration. What kind of nerve do these people have, calling themselves "experts", or using their PhDs, as a means to scam and deceive people of their money? Why 

I know I'm pretty damn good at getting people lean. I also got a knack for the scientific research and possess a rather deep understanding thereof, within the broad context of nutrition and physiology. Whatever art there is to getting lean and staying lean, I consider myself cream of the crop. I talk it, walk it, teach it, and write it. That's it. I'll claim this title with a straight face, but I would never claim to be - for example - a strength and conditioning specialist, or an athletics coach.

I wouldn't write a book about abs, if I'd never have abs myself. I wouldn't make up an ab routine out of thin air, like some people do. I don't even write about such things. I wouldn't give advice or recommendations that I didn't have any experience of, or true belief in, just to make a quick buck - yet I see tons of so-called experts doing just that.

I think everyone would be a lot better off if we'd all stick to this rule - be honest and stick to what you know. Don't trample on unknown territory. Don't bullshit people.

Anyway. The hate of incompetence is also what makes me take a step back. Away from the circus. Away from the childish illusions I previously maintained.

Consequence and Clarity

With numerous Leangains fans across the globe, I feel a responsibility to let you know where I stand - to give you clear answers.

1. Please don't ask when - or if - the book is coming. Don't expect anything. I sincerely apologise for any promises made, and I hope that you can appreciate the informative material that I've given you for free on this site. That said, you shouldn't be surprised if something appears either. What's important to me, is to rid myself of the burden of expectations and provide an answer to those who keep asking about a book.

2. I'm going back to personal training (online mostly). I am perfectly happy to assume this role: trainer. This is what I do. Not writing. Not adding fuel to bandwagons. There is nothing more demotivating than the blatant stealing, improper use of science, and the weasely paper machét characters characters that defile this business, and make a profit of what I give for free - delivered in vastly inferior form, of course. Donations doesn't pay the rent, unfortunately (though they are very much appreciated - there's a button on the bottom of this site).

Dan Ordoins is an old client of mine. I remember him very well, and I value the personal experiences we shared together - the learning process, and the the long-lasting impact it would prove to have. He's just of many names and stories that I've come to treasure throughout the years, just like I've come to learn that I treasure the personal stories behind the many success stories I've created with my writing.

Oh, BTW. In 2013, keep your eyes peeled for at least two names on the big screen, giving a thumbs up to Leangains in one way or the other...

3. Thanks for all the success stories. I will finally get to read them, and I hope to publish many on this site - to keep the site alive, but most importantly to act as inspiration to others.

4. I will still be around, but my focus will be elsewhere - it will not be on new articles for this site (but as mentioned above, I will still post). Please understand that I put a lot of time and effort into my writing. My articles are original, well-researched, free of charge, and often stolen by those who seek to make a profit of it. This sucks the joy and passion out of writing.

5. Lastly, I'd like to say that there is a story - or a few stories - behind all this. I'd hope to share it with you in the future. I think this post would make more sense with that in the back of your mind.

6. Leangains is very much alive now, and forever. But for you and me both, it's important that I detach myself from the ongoing bullshit (much of which happens behind the scenes).

Below follows a few points of interest that I want to clarify, correct or explain.

Making Good

This concerns a few articles posted here in the year that passed.

I promised an "expert's review" of Brad Pilon's Eat Stop Eat Expanded 5th Edition.

My plan was to dissect, comment, and critique the book from a unique perspective, going far beyond a lay readers understanding. But expert to me doesn't mean expert in the lingo that people have grown used to.

I didn't follow through. Through the lens of an expert ("expert" from the Berkhan Thesaurus), the book contains a few strange conclusions, and at times, a lacking understanding of physiological mechanisms, and questionable use of scientific research. The review would have come off as harsh, and I didn't think Pilon really deserved that.

Trust me. To this day, Brad Pilon's book is still the best book you can buy on the topic of intermittent fasting as subject of interest. Don't even bother with the rest. 

In fact, Brad Pilon's book is quite possibly the best ebook across the board when it comes to metabolic/physiological theory, i.e. he covers these quite well and doesn't make shit up.

My apologies, Brad. There are countless others that deserves a harsher treatment than this. Surely you understand how peculiar your answer appears. That's OK. Personally, I have a few drinks and let my mouth run loose on Twitter every now and then. 

Eat Stop Eat Expanded 5th Edition is still a good book, heavily referenced, and remains a rarity in an industry where the standard is shit. My standards seems to be different, but this is still one of the few books I can recommend with a straight face. I would never recommend a product or compromise my integrity by promoting something that I considered to be of poor quality.

Why Does Breakfast Make Me Hungry? This article should have been written in a more neutral language. I should have been more critical of my conclusions, rather than producing an advanced scientific theory of physiology and hormonal interaction to support my personal experiences and anecdotes of others. I will revise the article to better fit this criteria. My apologies. I have always prided myself on being fully transparent, competent, and completely honest in my use of science and its place within a practical application. Perhaps this came off as preaching to the choir, i.e. vilifying breakfast, and that was certainly not my intention.

Intermittent Fasting: A Catalyst For Change

Intermittent fasting was very important as a concept, for it played a groundbreaking role as a catalyst for facts that changed the mindscape within the community. When I first started talking about it in 2006, everyone agreed on how things should be done. Always eat breakfast, always eat small meals, frequently, don't eat in the evening, etc. Turned out it was all bullshit, of course.

Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked

There was suddenly a whole new world of options to experiment with. This lead to countless new success stories all across the world - people who now finally could eat in a way that made them leaner, happier, and better in many other ways.

But it's very important to understand this:

A good decision is a decision that creates success. A good decision is your diet, and the numerous good decisions that make it work. However, to make a good decision - the best decision - you need to have options. How can you make a good decision for yourself, if you believe that there is only one good option and one good decision to make?

For example, how can you make the best decision if you believe that breakfast in the morning, six meals a day, and no carbs after 6 PM, are superior decisions - unquestionably the best ways to do things?

You can't, of course. Until I introduced intermittent fasting and debunked all the bullshit dogma of the times, countless people didn't have enough options. They didn't have the knowledge or the information required to make the best decisions, nor did I - and it always leads to failure in the long-term. The best decisions are often relative - and they should be made from the standpoint of your personal preferences, not from the standpoint of subjecting yourself to nonsensical rules.

Remember that. Be careful of people who have the best decisions for everybody. History repeats itself.

Did I overplay the intermittent fasting card? I don't think so. I was never dishonest about something and I went to great lengths to talk about how personal preferences are of far greater importance - i.e. whatever works for you in the long-term, that's the main thing.

The scientific research surrounding the topic remains an area of interest, so it still has my attention. But intermittent fasting as a point in itself is completely meaningless to me. I'm a pragmatist, I'll use whatever I deem to be best for the goal at hand.

It just so happened that intermittent fasting was the missing piece of the puzzle in many ways, for me, and it also happened to work very well within the context of the Leangains approach, which I summarised in The Leangains Guide.

Leangains Vs Intermittent Fasting

It's very important to understand this:

Leangains drove the popularity of intermittent fasting, not the other way around. An "intermittent fasting diet" is just an easy way to characterise an approach that includes several other distinct characteristics that make Leangains into what it is.

Leangains is also an approach formed by the correct use of scientific research, based on context specific human studies of acceptable validity, with the understanding that the practical application, and the outcome thereof, remains theoretical - e.g. we cannot say for certain how much of a difference intermittent fasting really does.

In fact, I couldn't care less about intermittent fasting if it wasn't for the fact that it's the superior decision for diet compliance. For me, it happened to be the magic bullet, just like it's been proven to be for many others.

The Leangains story is perhaps best summarized by Sam Fuller. Fundamentally, Leangains is just another strategy that allowed me to have the cake, and eat it - and so it happened to be for many others.

But to cling to intermittent fasting, or to hop on the  fasting bandwagon and fast for 16+ hours with the naive expectation of a magic trick - to willingly fast for fasting in itself, even if it's not really for you - is very foolish.

Remember. That's what people did in the mid-2000's - what we all did. We subjected us to rules that proved to be incompatible with long-term success, balance in life, and peace of mind. The role I played was in opening up your eyes to the alternative - to give you more options, and improve your decision making skills on dietary aspects that are of critical importance (i.e. the choice of meal frequency).

Back then, we ate every 2-3rd hour for the sake of eating every 2-3rd hours, we ate breakfast for the sake of eating breakfast, and we didn't eat much in the evening. But now, I see this might be happening again - in reverse.

See, now everyone's riding the fasting bandwagon. Perhaps best exemplified by the "The 8-Hour Diet", this the result of a marketing engine fueled by false promises, bullshittery and the disingenous make believe-science that impresses the lay man, pleases the crowds, and disgusts the one who sees right through it.

This is what corrodes this industry. This is what keeps people confused. This is what obfuscates success, and makes you forget the critical importance of personal preferences - not slavery under rules that doesn't really make sense for you.

This is the real reason...The Industry, man. They just want you to conform, and use you for their profit schemes. Fuck them, I'm staying real.

All of the above is just a little something that I want you to remember in a world of cheap gimmicks, make-believe experts, and the progressive abuse of scientific research by those you least expect (not to mention those you do expect it from).

I've always been a friend of the common guy (and girl) - anyone with a curious mind and a yearning for truth and honesty, will find a treasure trove in this site. I've spent countless hours on writing the many articles that people have come to appreciate throughout the years. I've provided them willingly - and freely - without compromising my integrity. I've done all this while maintaining a rather exclusive clientele, and I've done it with the understanding that I've been trading money for the joy of writing.

To discover that I'm often being lumped together with those who have the audacity to call themselves "fitness experts" and "trainers", yet are nothing more than internet marketers, is very frustrating, discouraging, and downright offensive. Adding to that, there is the greater and more complex problem with those who use their titles and so-called science to wilfully deceive or horseshit their way to fame and fortune. It seems like the good guys just can't win in this crazy world.

Take care.

P.S. For Swedish Leangains aficionados - I was the distinguished shit talker/guest in the 100th podcast episode of BODY Radio. Check it out. After years of nagging, I finally gave in. Glad to see that the show was very well received, broke the downloads PR, and boosted the show to top 40 on iTunes.

Bonus #1: Conversation With a Friend 

This post was heavily edited and shortened. I realised that it was so specific to my personal perspective, and quite hard to convey properly without all the details. Eventually, I gave up and just published what you got to read above. Still, there's some bonus material that I figured might be interesting to those who seek a deeper understanding.

I've added the first (and possibly only) bonus below. I'll decide on the rest in the days to come.


[E-mail exchange, October 1st, 2012.]

[Background: Just a conversation with a friend. That's all.]


....Am I making any sense, Phil? The frustration and anger is quite hard to convey, since it's so very specific to my work and my subjective experience of the events surrounding it, so I can imagine all this might sound a bit overdramatic and crazy to you.

Phil: Sorry for the delay, Martin. I said I'd write properly in my next mail, and wanted to find the time to do so. Also to try and respond in an equally heartfelt manner, which I greatly appreciated

My father was a vet. Animals can't talk. Which means you better be one hell of a diagnostician. Which also means you can do whatever the fuck you want. If the vet pronounces its verdict in a doctoral tone, the pet owner will kneel. 90% of the time, Nature will take care of the healing, and a visit to the vet is more or less psychological support. 

If the injury or disease is too bad, and if you're incompetent, just declare there's nothing to do and suavely talk your way to euthanasia. (and that's the best option, I won't get into the details of vets properly killing animals or throwing them into unbearable lengths of agony by prescribing astonishingly irrelevant and most of the time unnecessary medications to pets who'd have healed in a natural manner. Because in the end, all these crooks care about is their Christmas envelope from BigPharma, and a prescription makes the owner happy. Win-win right?)

All my father's misery came from being too good at what he did, and not suave enough. Through sweat and tears he elevated hismelf to expert status in bone surgery, gave and went to seminars multiple times a year. Meanwhile, 95% of his so-called colleagues never attended one in their entire life after they bagged their diploma but were more than thriving in mastering the craft of being obsequious storekeepers.

Oh yes, my father is bitter. Never become a vet he told me. So I became a designer. And surprise, it's the same opaque shit I get to paddle in. will tell you more about our special condition, though I think you already had an idea.

But my father's case is probably closer to yours. Because, (even if the design world is also plagued with it, the consequences are less significant) it has to do with usurpation.

I often hear people say that our society has "inverted values". That it's got its head upside down. But I think it's actually not exactly so.

Yesterday we got out with my girlfriend and got relatively plastered. This morning she texted me from work to state how not so good she felt. She texted: "I also wore my panties backwards". I answered: "I hope it isn't a thong." She said: "actually it is. But not backwards this way. More like inside-out". Me: "makes me think of our society". Her: "what a jolly fellow you make".

As much as egalitarism, horizontality and the inherent illusion of a debate (too much noise) are the high price we pay for the empowerment of the masses, we can't do without it. Without the masses, no movement.  

The problem might be more insidious. It's not the total moron, nor most of the people (I can't bring myself to hate the masses), it's the evergrowing fraction of people with an art diploma who should have been plumbers. In french I call them les demi-habiles. The semi-skillful. Half-skillful. Journalists, debaters, psychology consultants, etc... The niches they created for themselves are legion, they sure know how to sail their little boats. So yes, usurpation, not an inversion, just a nasty little twist

And the consequence of that sudden increase in number of "experts" is unaccountabilty and impunity. 
Impunity also certainly has to do with christianism-read-wrong and the debilitating empathy of our visually driven world, but I suspect it's mainly due to sheer numbers, the crazy numbers of "experts" and the rate at which information is spouted. I can't bring myself to really blame the layman. Even if it doesn't mean I don't expect some degree of accountabilty,integrity and lucidity from him. But only some degree, I've learned to lower my hopes, sadly. Or maybe hopefully, I don't really know anymore.

Lastly, the [name omitted] video response to "officialy not you" struck me. I've watched other videos from him, and nearly all of them are in a way or another about his haters. You know how even on 9GAG we chronically come across a quote from a famous scientist whose powerful invention was at first ridiculed. And that fact is true. Problem is when shit art is now called "misunderstood", and when semi-skillfull project themselves as misunderstood geniuses standing tall against the storm. Not inverted values, these are usurpated values.

Sorry for this blabber Martin. I could just have said that your authenticity is scary in a world that tolerates fakeness. That I understand ho so well. It went longer than expected and I hope the personal aspect of all this will be of some added value. [It was.]

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Train Like A Man, Look Like A Goddess


Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote:
Women, you need to put down those pink dumbbells, throw that Shape Magazine in the trash can and stop with this nonsense. You seem to believe that the modest amount of strain will cause you to wake up looking like a bodybuilder in the morning. Horseshit.
...What you need to do is slap yourself and start training for real.

Fuckarounditis. (#10.)

Truth to be told not a lot has changed since then. It never will, because if you have insight and knowledge of how this machine works, well, you can forget about change within.

What you can do is simple, because I did it too when no one believed in intermittent fasting.

You show them that good things will come to those who dare to break a way from the norm a little bit.

I wrote this post for little more than a month ago once Facebook and people quite liked it. Then I suddenly started added things, making it all seem so obscure and serious, like some sociology paper on women's fitness, societal norms, Special K and

Woah there what the hell was that, anyway...

...Well, let's just say that women need role models, community and sensible get-it-done type rules on lifting.

Now, Isa has been putting up with so much shit from my side about the industry (behind-the-scenes-stuff) that I'm afraid I might have drained her energy for the competition she's at today, and you need to give her a lift.

I want you to leave her a message, ok?

At Barbella's Universe

By the way, I'm really sorry in messsing up this post. Will fix.

Strong Women

I made this album to make yet another point about women and weight training. Isa competes in strongman, took two gold medals in the recent European Powerlifting Championsship, and squats, deadlifts, presses, throws tires and runs around with some heavy shit I don't even know the name of.

Not an ounce of bulky muscle or a iota of freakishness to her. In spite of doing the complete opposite of what most are told on how to train - in the media, womens mags, by friends, but also within communities that should know better (i.e. physique competitors). The result is a good and healthy look. Leaner than most, and most definitely stronger. No cardio, just heavy weights 3x/week and no soy cracker and tofu style diet.

Decent muscularity for a female with her training background (a year or so), but a far cry for the fantasyland make-believe look of bulky muscles supposed to result from such training. Thats because it's all horseshit, of course.

Point being, train heavy, eat well and I guarantee that you will get hotter with each 10 lbs extra you put on the bar. As long as you stay away from the roids, because that's where the myth of freakish muscles on women comes from. The masculinizing effects of steroids on woman are profound and devastating, aestethically (subjective sure, but still) and socially. Be aware of it - and don't worry about the BS you hear and read about how women should train.

Regrettably, you're bound to hear BS and opinions about your training almost every damn day, if you're going against the grain and doing the unexpected - grunting females, lifting heavier weights than most men, are frowned upon by the mediocre and weak majority that makes up both of the genders - in our society.

Throw away the pink dumbbells, stay away from the treadmill, start lifting some real weight. If that means quitting your gym, because people look at you funny (an issue that really holds women back) when you grunt or sweat, do it. 

Pro tip, girls. ***bonus***

If hard training means joining a CrossFit class, do it. One thing CrossFit does right is providing the right environment, friendship, encouragement and attitude for girls who want to train hard without being stared at. That is worth far far more than an "optimal" weight training routine in a shitty commercial gym where people are clueless, mediocre and easily intimidated, almost offended, by hard training females.

I'm not a fan of CrossFit the way it's generally used, the marketing, or its use by people with vague objectives. However, for women specifically, it can really make all the difference.

...Another great thing you can do is encourage Isa to start her blog, so she can get her thumbs out the ass, and start serving as the good role model for weight training women that I think she is (my opinion, not hers).

Her attitude and looks is a statement and a point that needs to be made many times over. It ain't exactly like it's raining hot and feminine looking female strongman competitors these days. It's a sport plagued by an unfortunate stereotype, which unfortunately is true to a large extent. To Hell with that though, because the butch look is a consequence of steroids, girls, and you need not concern yourself with it.

Concern yourself with 250-300 lbs deadlifts and 200-250 lbs squats, avoid starvation diets, and enjoy the ride. You'll be much happier with the outcome of that, than say crackers and yoghurt, 2 hr daily cardio sessions and those mickey mouse curls you read about in Cosmo.

Eat like a man, train like a man, and look like a goddess. Would be a fairly accurate and true quote, if it wasn't for the fact that most men train like retards.

Anyway, here's a few resources that you should read, regardless of gender, but very relevant to the topic:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Does Breakfast Make Me Hungry? (Major Update July 16th)


“Why does breakfast make me hungry?” When someone asked me that question for the umpteenth time since my methods became popular, I finally decided to indulge in a deeper exploration of what the plausible mechanism might be. I thought I’d share my thoughts on that with you today.

Note: Major Update July 16th and July 17th. See "Closing Point: Addendum" and "Short addendum" at the end of the article, a few P.S's, and a complete list of references.

It’s a fairly lengthy article, but hopefully interesting enough to keep your attention, informative enough to teach you a few things, and decent enough to mark my return back into the love-hate-relationship I maintain with the Internet (…and its potpourri of good and bad, smart and dumb, facts and bullshit).

My heart sank when it seemed they had provided overwhelming evidence for the benefits of breakfast a few months ago. But I proved them wrong.

Why Does Breakfast Make Some People Hungry?

As mentioned, it wasn’t without grounds that the question piqued my curiosity beyond that which could be attributed to food selection. In questionnaires, clients would often note that eating in the morning made them ravenous before noon, and sometimes no more than an hour after a steady breakfast.

On Facebook, in emails, and in casual conversation, anecdotes to a similar effect kept popping up too frequently to be explained by mere coincidence. Or to be shrugged off with a half-assed answer, with the underlying assumption that everyone’s eating crap for breakfast.

These folks weren’t eating Cheerios rounded off with a peanut butter sandwhich and a large glass of orange juice – you know, the usual Average Joe breakfast that would make anyone hungry an hour later.

No, these guys had your typical fitcentric breakfast with the kinds of foods that most of us ate at one point or another – oatmeal, dairy, eggs, etc. Often, but certainly not that often since the increasing popularity of Paleo, a meal characterized by moderate to high amounts of carb and protein, relatively low on fat, and more often than not a decent chunk of fiber.

You can spend all day arguing about the healthiness of whole grains and dairy (just not here, thanks), but fact remains that these foods could not singlehandedly explain the fact that breakfast triggered hunger in some people.

Hell, just google “why does breakfast make me hungry”, “hungry after breakfast”, or “breakfast makes me hungry”, and you’ll see that forums are swamped by people with the same experiences.

I’ll add myself to the aforementioned crowd. Omitting breakfast may have been the single greatest improvement to my diet when I embarked on my intermittent fasting regimen back in ’06, adherence wise.

For me, like countless other Leangains practitioners, breakfast was a huge pain in the ass and skipping it made all the difference in the world. Compared to before, dieting became almost effortless.

Not to mention long-term maintenance. No more counting the hours ‘till noon, and feeling like I was on a diet, regardless of whether I was actually dieting, maintaining, or “bulking.”

My favorite "breakfast" these days is the all-you can-eat-beef-buffet at 6 PM or later.

For me and many others out there, skipping breakfast keeps hunger away far better than eating in the morning – paradoxically enough. This is of course very interesting to me, because it’s a damn strange thing. Why is it that some people are better off not eating anything at all in the morning? How can you be better off with zero calories than hundreds of calories under these specific conditions? It just doesn’t make sense.

So I set out trying to answer that question, and finally arrived at a satisfying hypothesis a mechanism behind that mysterious post-breakfast hunger surge that so many of us experience.

The original article ended up being 12000+ words long with a ridiculously pretentious academic tone, branching out in all kinds of directions on semi-related issues. Far too long for most people’s attention spans, and way too technical for most peoples level of understanding.

Yesterday I sat down and rewrote the whole thing, trying to convey it all in the same manner I’d use when explaining it to my girlfriend, bro, or invisible friend, to which I’ve retold this whole thing to numerous times now. That’s Berkhanese for “some things are simplified from my perspective, but it’s still complex enough for the lay man, and hopefully decent enough to satisfy the expert.” Enjoy.

* In regards to breakfast, I will be referring to breakfast in the traditional sense of the term throughout this article, i.e. eating upon arising. Not breakfast in the original sense of the meaning, i.e. as the first meal after an overnight fast.

Defining Post-Breakfast Hunger 

Trying to define post-breakfast hunger is an exercise in futility. It’s something you’ll instantly be able to relate to, because you have the same experience, or something that makes you wonder what the hell I’m talking about, because you simply don’t have that problem. I’m guessing most of my readers fall into the former category, so I won’t be spending much time on academic discourse in attempting to define the phenomenon beyond what I’ve already done. Simply put, some people get hungry, very hungry, and/or experience cravings of various magnitude shortly after eating breakfast in the morning.

In the scientific literature, researchers who specialize in research on appetite, hunger and addiction, make a distinction between the aforementioned terms (i.e. hunger, craving, etc), but since post-breakfast hunger has been described in subjective experiences from clients, forum posts, etc, and without any truly detailed inquiry from my side, I’m guessing most people refer to the same phenomena when they talk about post-breakfast hunger in terms of getting cravings, feeling hungry, feeling ravenous, and so forth. For me personally, the sensation can be described as hunger, in the sense most of you probably think of hunger.

Post-breakfast hunger sets in somewhere between morning and noon, usually 30 mins to 2 hours after breakfast, and doesn’t usually manifest in any symptoms beyond noticeable hunger. However, some people have mentioned that irritability and impaired ability to focus on tasks that require sustained amounts of concentration, co-occurs with post-breakfast hunger.

An important point is that the same meal will not trigger this early and/or pronounced sensation of hunger if consumed later in the day. Post-breakfast hunger cannot be explained by differences in food choice, but by certain individual factors, and their interaction with a time-of-day effect of feeding on hormonal profile and metabolism.

Cereal will make anyone hungry soon again, but an important point of this article is that post-breakfast hunger is independent of food choice (i.e. it cannot be attributed to the simple fact that people tend to eat different type of foods in the morning versus later in the day). By the way, the above is part of my post-workout meal, when I occasionally include a box of cereal. I might be having some beef, potatoes, and ice cream afterwards to celebrate the new deadlift PB I just scored. 600 lbs x 4 in case anyone's curious. Stay tuned for the video

A Primer on Cortisol

Cortisol is the main culprit behind for post-breakfast hunger, the up-until-now mysterious affliction that is the topic behind this article. Most of you probably associate cortisol with stress and muscle catabolism, and consequently with “bad” and “avoid.” This is partly correct, but mostly erroneous.

Since “partly correct” is to blame for many of the nonsensical diet myths out there, it’s useless. People claiming that eating six times a day will stoke your metabolism, and that fasting causes starvation mode, are “partly correct” – but mostly full of shit, as I explained in “Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked.”

The context is often critical, and this is especially true in regards to cortisol - which is why I’m going to give you a very brief primer on this complex and multi-facetted hormone. There are almost as many definitions of stress as there are myths about cortisol, but in regards to the former, the one that appeals to me from a minimalist perspective is:

Stress can be defined as any challenge to homeostasis of an individuum that requires an adaptive response of that individuum.

- Newport & Nemeroff, 2002.

Cortisol is secreted in response to a stressor, in order to help you cope with the stressor efficiently, whether that stressor is a balls-to-walls-set of 20-rep squats, or a looming deadline for an article that needs to be finished. The role of cortisol during these challenges is to boost you, not cripple you, whether the stressor is physical (e.g. exercise, injury, cold) or psychological (e.g. a complex or cognitively demanding challenge) in nature (or both).

Thanks to increasing cortisol levels during training, we can push way past our non-stressed comfort level, and maintain an adequate rate of exertion for a longer period of time than what would have been possible otherwise, without being overtly distracted by pain, hunger and fatigue. Cortisol improves muscle and glucose metabolism, increases pain tolerance, diminishes fatigue and strengthens motivation.

By the way, does this answer those of you who have asked me about my thoughts on pre-workout cortisol blockers? No? OK, then all I can say is good luck with those squats, buddy..

Due to cortisol in response to a cognitive challenge, we can recall important facts faster and in greater detail than otherwise, maintain focus, stay alert and pull all-nighters in front of the computer if needed. Cortisol increases sensory perception, memory recall, and wakefulness.

Most of the above is covered in Robert Sapolsky’s excellent book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, in which he also explains when and why cortisol becomes bad for us. Briefly, prolonged exposure to a stressor results in chronically elevated cortisol, which then does all sorts of bad things to us. There’s a time and place for cortisol. In this day and age, the line between work (stress) and leisure time (rest) is often blurred.

With constant self-imposed demands, never ending obligations, and endless opportunities to work (in the office, at home, etc), the stressors of modern society are of the psychological variety and they are always present if you allow them in.

In stark contrast, the stressors of the past were more often of the intermittent and physical variety. While they were probably more severe and often life threatening, there was a clear-cut line between the start and the end. And this explains the title of Sapolsky’s book, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and which I urge you to read if you want a more detailed explanation of stress and the workings of cortisol.

What Sapolsky doesn’t cover in great detail however, is the cortisol awakening response and the acute effects of cortisol on insulin secretion.

The Cortisol Awakening Response

Most people get the concept of exercise and work as stressors, “challenges to homeostasis”, which require an adaptive response (cortisol). But few people think of waking up from sleep and rising out of bed as a particularly stressful event. However, waking up from sleep is indeed a profound challenge to homeostasis, if you think of stress in those terms.

The transitioning between the passive sleeping state to the active wake state is – in a way – like a leisurely walk interrupted by an all-out-sprint. In endocrinology, there’s a special name for the events that transpire to wake you up in the morning: the cortisol awakening response (CAR), on which there exists a substantial amount of research.

Awakening stimulates ACTH secretion in the pituitary, which then stimulates cortisol secretion in the adrenal glands. The rapid increase and peak in cortisol level after awakening is termed the cortisol awakening response (CAR). Although it is thought that CAR is a distinct part of diurnal cortisol rhythm, CAR and diurnal cortisol rhythm actually represent two separate adrenocortical activities.

- Shin et al., 2011.

As the body prepares to start up for the day, cortisol gradually starts to rise in the second half of the night, almost resulting in a climax as you open your eyes. But as you waddle out of bed on the way to the shower, cortisol will continue to climb. It will reach a peak 30-45 minutes later – which is right around breakfast time.

We’ve now reached a key point in this hypothesis behind post-breakfast hunger, because the precise timing of the circadian cortisol peak (CAR) and breakfast consumption has some very interesting effects on insulin secretion.

The Cortisol Awakening Response and Insulin Secretion

So you’ve taken your shower, dressed for the day, and done whatever else you like to do in the morning that’s none of my business, and now you sit down to eat breakfast before work, school, or whatever else. I’m guessing it’s now some 30-45 minutes after you stepped out of bed if you’re like most people.

As you sit down to eat, or at some point right around that time, cortisol reaches the highest point of the day, which would be 20-30 nmol/l. That’s compared to 2-5 nmol/l between evening and midnight, which is the lowest point during the circadian cycle if you want some numbers. It might go higher later during the day depending on the magnitude of stress you’re exposed to, but that’s besides the point.

The early insulin response to a meal is higher in the morning than in the afternoon, and this fact can only partially be explained by a moderately increased secretion of incretins. Rapid non-genomic effects of higher cortisol levels in the morning might be, at least in part, responsible for this finding.
- Vila et al., 2011.

The point is that the circadian cortisol peak coincides with breakfast, and that this is the only point during the day that cortisol reaches high enough levels to exert an acute and pronounced effect on feeding-induced insulin secretion.

If that sounds vague for the endocrinology enthusiasts out there and those of you who are familiar with cortisol, allow me to provide you with a brief explanation in language you can appreciate it. What I mean here is that, at the CAR peak, cortisol climbs high enough to agonize glucocorticoid receptors. This changes the non-genomic interaction between cortisol and insulin action from being permissively restraining by the former, as seen at other times during the day due to mineralocorticoid binding dominance, to a non-genomic stimulating, or synergistic if you will, effect (Vila et al., 2010; Dallman et al., 1995)

If the last paragraph doesn’t make much sense to you, then you know why I had to rewrite the whole article and simplify it.

Short-term* exposure to cortisol powerfully augments insulin secretion and this is the key point here.

* In stark contrast, long-term exposure has the opposite effect.

Average Joe Eats Breakfast

So, what happens then, as you start eating? Bad things? No, not necessarily, depending on the other variables in this equation – more on that very soon.

Enter Average Joe, who is average as it gets, with all its implications. Meaning fat, poor insulin sensitivity, and out of shape, according to our standard, but average according to the standard for modern man used in the scientific literature.

Average Joe sits down to eat his breakfast, and due to the influence of cortisol, his pancreas responds with a rapid and – relative to other points during the day, all else equal – high burst of insulin. This forces blood glucose down faster to baseline than later in the day, which in this context is a desirable effect.

Although the feeding-induced insulin peak comes much faster and is much higher, due to the meal coinciding with the circadian cortisol peak, the net effect should be that average insulin secretion and blood glucose in the post-prandial period post-breakfast is lower than later in the day, under a low-cortisol fed condition. In a way, Average Joe’s sluggish pancreas might actually benefit from the augmented insulin response in the morning,

That’s Average Joe. But what about Fit Joe? This is when it gets interesting.

Insulin Sensitivity and Insulin Resistance: Brief Primer

Something has always struck me as very peculiar and far too common of an observation to be coincidental.

When I first started dieting way back in the day, I did just fine with on your run-of-the-mill high meal frequency diet, with your run-of-the-mill fitcentric oatmeal based breakfast. I started out pretty fat at around 225 lbs, and lost about 40 lbs give or take, on a fairly generic approach mostly.

Sure enough, I did tons of beginner mistakes, especially in the cardio department (overdoing it), and subsequently suffered for it. I had my setbacks, like everyone else, but I powered through them all. I wrote about this journey a few years ago, in case you care to read more about it. There’s a few photos from back in the day too, which does a decent job of showing my overall development throughout the years.

Anyway, it wasn’t until at a later stage, leanness wise, that breakfast really started becoming a problem. First of all, I always felt that it was an unnecessary caloric burden that interfered with dieting. I wasn’t that hungry in the morning, but more so in the evening.

I would never have been able to maintain this conditioning with breakfast.

Had I known better back then, I would have started skipping breakfast earlier, of course, but back then everyone was preaching the virtues of breakfast and you didn’t really dare to break all these golden rules of the fitness game.

(And you’d still be eating breakfast if I didn’t put my ass on the line to set you straight 5-6 years ago, or whenever you first read my stuff. Am I right or am I right?)

Second of all, it seemed like the post-breakfast hunger surge increased in amplitude and frequency for every damn ounce of body fat I lost beyond a certain point. At some point, it became overwhelming, and that’s when the wheel-spinning started, progress wise. Until I finally decided to do my own research, no longer swallowing down the bullshit fed to me by so-called fitness gurus and the Journal of Broscience. The rest is history.

Anyway, let me put my labcoat back on again, and explain to you how this fits in with everything else I’ve talked about so far. We’ve now reached the second key point in this hypothesis behind post-breakfast hunger. The first key point, as you might recall, was the CAR and its peak coinciding with breakfast.

The second key point is insulin sensitivity. What happens when an insulin sensitive person eats something? Briefly, rising blood glucose levels feeds back to the pancreas (i.e. tells it that insulin is needed), and the pancreas responds with insulin. In turn, insulin then shuttles glucose from the blood to places where its needed (e.g. liver and muscle), which lowers blood glucose and prevents it from accumulating in the blood.

High blood glucose levels for longer periods of time (as seen in untreated type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance or poor insulin sensitivity, etc) does all sorts of bad things to us, which is why we want to bring it back to a healthy baseline as soon as possible. This is why high insulin sensitivity is a good thing.

If you’re insulin sensitive, the pancreas responds fast, with a big burst of insulin, in response to glucose, and then tapers off when it’s no longer needed. A sharp peak of insulin, with a prompt decline. The net result is lower readings of post-prandial blood glucose and insulin levels.

In contrast, insulin resistance results in a sluggish response, with a small burst of insulin, and a slow decline. The net result is higher readings of post-prandial blood glucose and insulin.

Imagine a graph tracking insulin secretion in the post-prandial period, with time on the X-axis and insulin on the Y-axis. Now picture a peak-like pattern for an insulin sensitive person, and a hill-like pattern for an insulin resistant person – that’s how it would look.

An important point in the above scenario is that insulin reaches a higher max in the insulin sensitive example.

Insulin and Blood Glucose Regulation

Recall that cortisol augments insulin secretion. When you have high levels of cortisol (i.e. at the peak of the CAR) and eat something, insulin secretion is boosted. The pancreas responds faster and stronger.

But Fit Joe already boasts a really robust insulin response, because he is insulin sensitive. Now add the insulin boosting effect of CAR on top of that, and what do you get? In theory, a very strong and sharp insulin surge. And what is the consequence of that?

Put differently – just as an example – what is the consequence of injecting too much insulin relative to needs (i.e. glucose)? If you overdo it by a wide margin, you risk all the horrors of life threatening hypoglycemia, with the result being extreme hunger, confusion, coma, brain damage and death, in that order.

While the above presents a real danger for diabetics, it doesn’t for healthy individuals. We have evolved an extremely efficient regulatory system for preventing blood glucose from dropping too low, to levels where it can compromise bodily functions and cognition, and impair our chances for survival.

Indeed, blood glucose regulation is a very secure system, with redundant mechanisms able to increase glucose output to meet needs in case one part of the system fails. Glucagon, epinephrine (adrenaline), cortisol and growth hormone are different hormones that cooperate to fulfill the role of another in case it fails to do its job properly.

But this system has not evolved to deal with blood glucose that is just low enough to trigger hunger, without any serious side effects beyond that. In fact, low blood glucose as a hunger signal was the focus of one of the earliest theories on appetite regulation.

Why Does Breakfast Make Fit Joe Hungry?

In the “glucostatic theory”, Jean Mayer in the 1950’s proposed that low blood sugar served as the primary hunger-triggering signal that prompted us to feed (Mayer, 1953). Later studies has taught us that appetite regulation is way more complicated than that, but there is clearly a role for blood glucose in this equation.

Building on Mayer’s theory, Campfield has proposed a more complex and refined theory, in which he – briefly summarized – suggests that falling blood glucose levels might serve as a hunger signal (Campfield & Smith, 2003). This has been echoed elsewhere, in the sense that the speed of which blood glucose falls can serve as an alarm signal in a sense – while a prompt lowering of post-prandial blood glucose levels is desirable, too steep of a decline can be interpreted as danger, and trigger a hunger signal.

So when insulin sensitive Fit Joe eats breakfast right at the peak of his CAR, he gets a lot of insulin to go with that meal, with the result being a very speedy drop in blood glucose.

Now consider the meal itself. What does a typical fitcentric breakfast look like? Odds are that it’s higher on the protein and carb side of things, low on fat, and quite often includes a source of dairy or milk protein. Any one of these components further contributes to insulin secretion, independent of each other.

As a consequence of the above, hunger rears its ugly face shortly after the meal. Either as a result of blood glucose dipping slightly to low, or as a result of it dropping too fast within a narrow time-frame.

Putting It All Together

And that, my friends, was my abbreviated explanation for post-breakfast hunger. If you give it some thoughts, it fits right in with my personal experience, my observations, and the many anecdotes I’ve come across throughout the years.

Post-breakfast hunger is something that occurs more frequently, and more noticeably so, in fairly lean individuals. I’d estimate that it’s fairly common in the 12-14% range. As you close in on single digit body fat percentage, it becomes very common indeed - and a serious obstacle for many.

Gradually, as we get leaner, we become more insulin sensitive. Little by little, as insulin sensitivity goes up, we get hungrier faster and more annoyingly so after breakfast, until we start wondering why we’re starving a mere 1-2 hours after a decently sized meal.

In a sense, it’s funny that blood glucose regulation works better in the fasted state, relative to the aforementioned breakfast scenario. It’s understandable when you consider that in the fasted state, you have balance between input and output, which in this analogy would be glucose and insulin. Glucose input to the blood is low and is well maintained with a low level of insulin in an insulin sensitive person.

With breakfast, insulin output is disproportionate to the input (breakfast), due to cortisol. A mismatch that would otherwise not be present under different circumstances (i.e. the same meal eaten later in the day, with low cortisol, or by someone with lower insulin sensitivity).

All of this raises interesting questions regarding the role of the cortisol-insulin connection, or dare I say breakfast consumption, and adaptation (or absence thereof) in the role of human evolution and its consequences for modern man, with his modern meal patterns.

Very interesting indeed, when you consider the events that transpire on a metabolic and transcriptional level once you combine cortisol and insulin. Not to mention the role of cortisol in place preference conditioning, learning, and the fact that even though breakfast-first-thing-in-the-morning is an artificial habit, manufactured by one of the first and possibly largest giant of the food industry (The Kellogg’s Company), it certainly is a habit we learned very fast.

But that’s for another time. Or for another one smart enough to recognize the clues to something big that I just handed them. Assuming they give a shit.

Closing Point

As a closing point, I want to point out that there were a few things that I had to cut out, since this article is long enough as it is. I figure that I should mention them very briefly by stating that there is a high degree of individual variance in the CAR, and that this might affect insulin secretion as well (i.e. a high CAR may have a larger influence on the feeding-induced insulin surge).

Furthermore, there is obviously a big role of food and macronutrient choice in all of this, but the role played may not be one that people typically expect. For example, some protein sources – or should I say, amino acids - are not only highly insulinogenic, but also trigger cortisol secretion. Incidentally, it tends to be the ones often consumed with breakfast.

Perhaps I need not mention that protein triggers a cortisol response, depending on the context (Benedict et al., 2005; Gibson et al., 1999; Slag et al., 1981). Oh, you thought that it was the other way around – that protein lowers cortisol? Well, then you learned another little something new today.

Maybe I’ll talk more about this another day, because there were many related and interesting semi-related parts to the topic of this article that I had skimp on, or cut out. Hopefully, time and motivation permits. I don’t trust myself to give any guarantees for the latter, unfortunately. But for the time and being, I’m back.

Closing Point: Addendum (July 16th)

An important point, which I should have accentuated and expanded upon, is the high degree of individual variability present among the hormonal factors within the equation that might predispose people to post-breakfast hunger. I wrote:

Post-breakfast hunger cannot be explained by differences in food choice, but by certain individual factors, and their interaction with a time-of-day effect of feeding on hormonal profile and metabolism.

More appropriately, my hypothesis states that it's the magnitude of these certain individual factors. Obviously, there are plenty of people who eat breakfast and do just fine. Some of whom probably need to eat breakfast in order to function optimally, and a portion of those that tolerate fasting poorly.

It should also go without saying that leanness and high insulin sensitivity does not inevitably bring about post-breakfast hunger, since there are tons of lean people who do not experience it. High insulin sensitivity are merely one of the factors that I believe plays a key role - and although leanness correlates strongly with insulin sensitivity*, there is a good degree of individual variance at any fixed level of body fat percentage.

*Specifically, visceral adipose tissue - not subcutaneous - predicts insulin sensitivity. However, low body fat means relatively low amounts of visceral fat, if you got to that point with a healthy and wholesome diet (i.e. with a decent fatty acid composition).

What are the other key factors - or variables - that determines the response? On top of insulin sensitivity, there is a very high degree of intra-individual variability when it comes to the CAR. I wrote:

 ...There is a high degree of individual variance in the CAR, and that this might affect insulin secretion as well (i.e. a high CAR may have a larger influence on the feeding-induced insulin surge).

My original article included a much longer section on CAR, in which I mentioned a few factors that should predict a high CAR, which in turn would predispose one to post-breakfast hunger. However, there are so many discrepancies and inconsistent findings on the subject within the scientific literature, that I choose to not delve into in such great detail. It would have been too speculative for my taste. This is also the current consensus on the topic in the scientific literature:

...The CAR literature is so inconsistent with regard to associations with trait psychosocial and health measures. 
...It is likely that different trait factors may be associated with different aspects of the regulatory puzzle, making it very difficult to tease apart.

- Clow et al., 2010.

Insulin sensitivity is easy to predict (body fat percentage), CAR is not - but I know there's some companies that provide kits for measuring salivary cortisol at home, and those are fairly reliable, I think. Anyone who's really interested in knowing their CAR might consider going that route.

There is one fairly consistent finding when it comes to the CAR; it's higher among women (Fries et al., 2009; Clow et al., 2010. Coincidentally, quite a few women have reported to me that they experience post-breakfast hunger - but  the role of CAR in all of this is anyone's guess, as is the relative contribution of each of these factors. After all, all of this is a hypothesis of mine, based on empirical research, endocrinology, and scientific theory.

The third important factor, which unquestionably plays a very important role in this, is food and meal composition, where you would have rapidly absorbing high-glycemic and highly insulinogenic meals (think toast, or cereal and milk) on one extreme end and low-glycemic low-insulinogenic meals on the other. The standard fitcentric breakfast that made me so ravenous for all those years falls somewhere in between. I usually had oatmeal, cottage cheese, whole grain bread, protein shakes, etc, in various combinations.

Someone in comments asked what you should eat if you happen to break the fast shortly after awakening. First of all, you need to ask yourself if you're hungry after whatever it is you're eating right now. No? Then there's obviously no need to start fixing and changing because you read a bunch of yang-yang on All this theory and speculation, however fancy and educated that speculation happens to be, is always secondary to real life results.

That said, assuming you do seem to be experiencing post-breakfast hunger after breaking the fast in the morning, I would definitely recommend cutting down on carbs in favor for fat and a solid protein source. Solid meaning chewable, meaning meat.

Aside from a change in macrocomposition, I would also consider some common sense fixes depending on needs. Cutting down on caloric density and increasing volume (e.g. by replacing some food items with veggies, ideally crucificerious veggies) is almost always a good idea.

Short addendum, July 17th

I added a quote by Vila (2011) to the article. Nothing new, just a little something in support of what I wrote about the CAR and insulin secretion:

The early insulin response to a meal is higher in the morning than in the afternoon, and this fact can only partially be explained by a moderately increased secretion of incretins. Rapid non-genomic effects of higher cortisol levels in the morning might be, at least in part, responsible for this finding.

Lastly, I should mention that the original article included a few more mechanisms by which breakfast may trigger hunger in some. However, I felt that the article was already too long, and would get way too technical and confusing for most people if I veered off into several directions. Furthermore, the blood glucose mechanism for post-breakfast hunger seemed like the most likely candidate. That said, it's interesting to note that Vila (2011) also demonstrated a direct effect of concurrent glucose and cortisol administration on PYY, a key hormone involved in appetite regulation:

The modulation of PYY plasma levels suggests the possible non-genomic effects of glucocorticoids on appetite-regulatory hormones.

However, in that study they used intravenous glucose, which makes the relevance of these results to real life settings questionable.


In case anyone’s wondering where I’ve been, especially those of you used to reading my frequently updated nonsense on Twitter and Facebook, only to see me disappear from the face of the Earth for the last two months.

An “I’ve been busy” type of response won’t do this time around. That would be a disservice to my true and loyal fans, many of who do a terrific job of directing others to the enlightenment they come to discover here. Not to mention an insult to those I’ve had to break important obligations to – you know who you are, and you will hear from me soon.

To make a long story short, an unfortunate chain of events forced me to take time off from everything. Literally everything on the online side of things, which is more or less like saying time off from work.

In either case, I’m back now. I understand that my work here is not yet done, and I shall finish what I started. Or die trying.

A special thanks to those of you who emailed me and wrote about the role I played in your life, development, career choice, inquired about my health, and reminded me of the important role I have come to play for some people. The few times I checked my inbox, it seems that there was yet another email from one of you, and I appreciated every single one of them. Here’s to hoping that I’ll get back to you one day.

Thanks for the support.

P.S. That deadlift video I talked about earlier in the article: deadlifting 600 lbs x 4 on Leangains intermittent fasting. Stay tuned for more videos. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel to be sure you don't miss 'em.

P.S.S. By the way, while you're over on YouTube, you might also want to check out the Hodge Twins talking about Leangains and intermittent fasting. Nothing new if you've read my stuff, but these guys are pretty hilarious. I can certainly appreciate them spreading the good word about intermittent fasting and killing off all these diet myths the way I've done here for years.

Lastly, I thought I'd mention that I'm once again quite active on Twitter and The Leangains Facebook Page. Feel free to follow me and join in the conversation.

Reference List 

Benedict, C., Hallschmid, M., Scheibner, J., Niemeyer, D., Schultes, B., Merl, V., Fehm, H. L., et al. (2005). Gut protein uptake and mechanisms of meal-induced cortisol release. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 90(3), 1692–1696. doi:10.1210/jc.2004-1792

Campfield, L. A., & Smith, F. J. (2003). Blood glucose dynamics and control of meal initiation: a pattern detection and recognition theory. Physiological Reviews, 83(1), 25–58. doi:10.1152/physrev.00019.2002

Clow, A., et al., The cortisol awakening response: More than a measure of HPA axis function. Neurosci. Biobehav. Rev. (2010), doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.12.011

Dallman MF, Akana SF, Strack AM, Hanson ES, Sebastian RJ. The neural network that regulates energy balance is responsive to gluco- corticoids and insulin and also regulates HPA axis responsivity at a site proximal to CRF neurons. Stress: Basic Mechanisms Clin Implicat 1995; 771: 730±742.

Fries, E., Dettenborn, L., Kirschbaum, C., 2009. The cortisol awakening response (CAR): facts and future directions. Int. J. Psychophysiol. 72, 67–73.

Gibson, E. L., Checkley, S., Papadopoulos, A., Poon, L., Daley, S., & Wardle, J. (1999). Increased salivary cortisol reliably induced by a protein-rich midday meal. Psychosomatic Medicine, 61(2), 214–224.

MAYER, J. (1953). Glucostatic mechanism of regulation of food intake. The New England journal of medicine, 249(1), 13–16. doi:10.1056/NEJM195307022490104

Newport, D.J. and Nemeroff, C.B. (2002) Stress. In: (Ed. in chief), Encyclopedia of the Human Brain, Vol. 4. Elsevier, pp. 449-462.

Shin, I.-Y., Ahn, R.-S., Chun, S.-I., Lee, Y.-J., Kim, M.-S., Lee, C.-K., & Sung, S. (2011). Cortisol Awakening Response and Nighttime Salivary Cortisol Levels in Healthy Working Korean Subjects. Yonsei Medical Journal, 52(3), 435. doi:10.3349/ymj.2011.52.3.435

Slag, M. F., Ahmad, M., Gannon, M. C., & Nuttall, F. Q. (1981). Meal stimulation of cortisol secretion: a protein induced effect. Metabolism, 30(11), 1104–1108.

Therrien, F., Drapeau, V., Lupien, S. J., Beaulieu, S., Doré, J., Tremblay, A., & Richard, D. (2008). Awakening cortisol response in relation to psychosocial profiles and eating behaviors. Physiology & Behavior, 93(1-2), 282–288. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.08.019

Vila, G., Krebs, M., Riedl, M., Baumgartner-Parzer, S. M., Clodi, M., Maier, C., Pacini, G., et al. (2010). Acute effects of hydrocortisone on the metabolic response to a glucose load: increase in the first-phase insulin secretion. European journal of endocrinology / European Federation of Endocrine Societies, 163(2), 225–231. doi:10.1530/EJE-10-0282

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

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