Friday, June 27, 2008

Sure-Fire Fat Loss

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I made a guest post today, on Mike O'Donnell's blog IF Life, and I thought I might post it here as well. Enjoy.

Sure-Fire Fat Loss

My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer. I also happen to be a proponent of intermittent fasting for health, fitness and fat loss. I have my own blog about fasting (www.leangains.com), but when Mike asked me if I’d like to make a guest post on his blog, I thought that’d be a great way to present my method in greater detail.


The Leangains protocol consists of two phases; 16 hours of fasting, followed by 8 hours of feeding. During this period, three meals are usually eaten. Depending on the day, the composition of those meals varies; on workout days, carbs are prioritized before fat, while on rest days fat intake is higher. Protein remains fairly high on all days. That’s a very basic and general description of the protocol I employ; of course, variables change depending on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels, but it would be hard to describe it in greater detail without drifting off too far.

Most of my clients are fitness enthusiasts, athletes and weight trainers, but the great majority of them have one thing in common – to look good naked. The ‘gain’ in Leangains can therefore be a bit misleading, as most of my clients wants to lose fat, while retaining as much muscle as possible in the process. While their diets might vary, it rests on some nutritional principles that I thought I’d present to the crowd reading this post. These principles will work for everyone, regardless of fitness level.

Here are a few guidelines that I consider success factors for performance, fat loss and excellent diet compliance.

• On workout days, break the fast with meat, veggies and a fruit. If you’re planning to train shortly after this meal, add a few carbs in the form of a starch source – potatoes or whole grain bread, for example. Make it a medium sized meal and don’t stuff yourself. Train within 3 hrs of having eaten this meal and have a much larger meal after your workout; in this meal, add more complex carbs – and you may even have one of your favourite treats as dessert, if it’s not too high in fat and if eaten in moderation. Good examples of what I refer to as ‘treats’: low fat ice cream, sorbet or JC’s cheesecake. Bad example: Chinese buffet or your son’s birthday cake. You get the point, keep it within moderation and don’t pig out.

• On rest days, eat less calories than on workout days - do this by cutting down on carb intake, and make meat, fibrous veggies and fruit the foundation of your diet for this day. The first meal of the day should be the largest, in contrast to workout days where the post-workout meal is the largest. Largest doesn’t necessarily mean largest in terms of volume; I suggest getting at least 40% of your calorie intake in this meal, and the dominant macronutrient should be protein. I’ll have some clients eating upwards to 100 g protein in this meal, so don’t be afraid to pile on the meat (or whichever protein source you prefer). Fattier meat and fish like ground beef and salmon are examples of some excellent protein sources that may be consumed on rest days.

• In the last meal of the day, include a slow digesting protein source; preferably egg protein, cottage cheese (or any other source of casein based protein). Meat or fish is also ok if you add veggies or supplement with fiber. This meal will keep you full during the fast and exert an anti-catabolic effect on muscle protein stores by ensuring that your body has an ample supply of amino acids until the next meal.

• Whole and unprocessed foods should always take priority over processed or liquid foods, unless circumstance demands a compromise. For example, you might find yourself in situations when there is little time to eat or prepare foods – in such a situation, having a protein shake or meal replacement bar is ok, where as solid, more satiating foods should be consumed whenever there is ample time to cook.

These are a few of the principles I’ve employed with great success; there’s a bit more to it, but this should get you started in the right direction.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Brief summary of popular approaches to intermittent fasting

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Brief summary of the differences that exist between the various forms of intermittent fasting.

If you're unclear about what intermittent fasting is, read this.

* ADF (alternate day fasting, 36/12 hrs fast/feed). See also The Alternate-Day Diet, which is a milder form of ADF. While I don't think The Alternate-Day Diet is an optimal approach for the fitness enthusiast, Johnson's book is surprisingly good and scientifically accurate. Everything about the title ("turn on your skinny gene") screams faddishness, but I was pleasantly surprised after finishing it. Having read all the quoted studies on ADF myself, I could not find any major misrepresentation of the findings apart from a few too optimistic blurbs about fasting and life extension. I can easily recommend this book for it's summary of the ADF findings. And while the nutritional advice might not be cutting edge, it's certainly not bad or misleading either.

* The Warrior Diet (20/4 hrs fast/feed). WD is actually not intermittent fasting in the strictest sense of the word, since the author allows small meals during the fast (vegetables, fruits). The WD book is somewhat of a cult classic, but the book prefers to quote stories and myth instead of scientifical evidence to supports it's (sometimes ridiculous) claims.

* Eat Stop Eat (24 hrs fasting, 1-2x/week). You can read my review of Eat Stop Eat here. This is a book I highly recommend for those interested in fat loss and the physiology of fasting. Eat Stop Eat has a strong following with many success stories.

* The Fast-5 Diet. (19/5 hrs fast/feed). Fast-5 should be available for free on the Fast-5 website. I shouldn't critique a book that is given a away freely. But let's just say I don't consider reading it the greatest investment of time you can make if you have the most basic understanding of how weight loss works.

* Leangains (16/8 hrs fast/feed)

Within each of these systems, there are more or less specific guidelines regarding nutrition, ranging from the very vague (ADF) to the strict (Leangains).

Leangains is specifically tailored to fitness and strength training, and for those wanting to get as lean and strong as possible. In comparison to other intermittent fasting based diets much more emphasis is put on proper pre- and post-workout nutrition. There are also specific guidelines with regards to calorie cycling, macrocomposition and meal timing.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

1 Year Anniversary Competition

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In celebration of the 1 year anniversary of this blog and my online consultation services, I am hereby announcing a summer competition as a fun experiment.

Rules are simple.

* Maximum of 10 clients. Starting at any time between the 16-30th June, you'll be working with me for 2 months.

* The client that makes the greatest body transformation wins.

* Before/after pics are mandatory and all participants must agree to have their pics shown on the site (faces obscured).

* Winner gets all fees returned. Basically, you'll get in shape for free and learn a whole lot of things in the process.

Contact details: martinberkhan@gmail.com (put "summer" as e-mail topic).

My regular consultation service is running as usual.




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

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