Monday, December 28, 2009

Cheesecake Mastery

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Everyone knows Christmas is a great time for cheesecake. And I'm a cheesecake master.


Master at eating it, that is. Do not click pic if prone to cravings.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Client Update

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Time for another client update.

See all client updates and testimonials on this site by clicking here and here.

Robert N

Robert had been dieting for Decembercupen, where he would compete in Athletic Fitness, for several weeks before he came to me. There wasn't much time left and at 4 weeks out he needed to cut fat fast while maintaining good performance in key movements*. Rapid fat loss while maintaining optimal strength is always a challenge and a bit of a paradox, but we succeeded quite well. Robert saw substantial fat loss (-11 lbs) in the 4 weeks leading up to the competition and landed a very commendable 2nd place in the chinning event.

* In Athletic Fitness, competitors are judged on chins and dips, rowing, obstacle course and physique.

Before at 203 lbs




After at 192 lbs



"I have as long as I can remember been interested in diet and exercise. During the passage of time, I have been in contact with numerous, more or less, working methods to optimize my training results, but none have been close to being as simple and functional as Martins Berkhan's.

During my diet for Decembercupen 2009, I felt for some time that my strength and energy levels were gradually decreasing. As a result, it affected both my schoolwork and my social life negatively. Since I had heard much good about Martin's approach and have seen several of his clients succeed in an outstanding manner I decided to contact him.

After just a few days the diet immediately felt much better. Strength and energy became stabilized and improved. Right up to the race I actually increased in strength and did well for my studies, even though I was in a proper calorie deficit. If anything, that is proof that intermittent fasting works in practice and not just in theory.

Martin is a person who possesses two very important characteristics, enormous knowledge and honesty. Martin not only helped me an awful lot in the diet but also changed my core diet and fitness philosophy. Training should not feel stressful or complicated, it should aim to strengthen yourself both physically and mentally. In my opinion there is no other system that makes it as easy and functional as Martin's."

-Robert N


Calle S

This is another case where the client needed to drop fat as fast as possible (for a photo shoot) while preserving strength and lean muscle mass. 11 lbs in about 5 weeks.

Before at 170 lbs



After at 159 lbs



"As an active competitor since 2005 (Athletic Fitness), it was not the first time I started dieting with the goal of maintaining maximum muscle mass while losing body fat.

I have a very strong interest in nutrition and have never previously taken any outside help in bringing up my diet and workout schedule. Previous diets have been more traditional in respect of high meal frequency (7-8 meals a day) and extremely low carbohydrate intake, which worked relatively well.

Like many, I was initially skeptical of intermittent fasting.I was absolutely convinced that fasting would result in an impaired protein synthesis and reduced muscle mass. In particular, for a natural athlete like myself.

I followed Martin and his clients on his website and various forums. As time passed, it became clearer that he and his clients seemed to be doing very well on this approach. They certainly didn't seem to lose any muscle mass or strength. Rather the opposite. This was contrary to my previous idea of what results intermittent fasting would bring.

I decided to give the method a chance. Since I wanted to ensure that I did not commit any mistake in the design of the diet, I chose to contact Martin directly to
initiate cooperation. In retrospect, I can honestly say that it is by far the best decision I have taken since I choosed to compete in Athletic Fitness. Martin's vast knowledge and strength training was a transformative experience for me.

What I immediately noticed that my mental focus was far above my mental status at the previous diets. It was like night and day. Fat loss was way beyond expectations throughout the diet, and there were no plataeus. Despite a fat loss of 1 kg per week, I lost no muscle mass, which I initially thought was impossible.

On previous diets I've always ended up feeling run down and wasted after finishing up. Not this time. From the beginning, I saw intermittent fasting as a diet method, but realize afterwards that it is a lifestyle. A lifestyle that offers
a healthy attitude towards food and provides a good opportunity to maintain good conditioning all year round."

- Calle S


Sterling P

Another happy client. Check out Sterling's blog where he covers intermittent fasting, training and other related topics.

Before at 158 lbs



After at 145 lbs



"I could not get my body fat down before 'meeting' Martin and enlisting his help. He helped me understand the importance of calories and the incredible usefullness of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting was the key to it all. It works! It allows you to lose body fat, maintain muscle mass (gain lean muscle in some cases), and feel better. Martin uses a no BS approach and doesn't sugar coat the real issue -- eating less, moving more, working out hard, & being disciplined.

I'm not a bodybuilder or pro athlete; I'm just a 38 year-old, father of 5 that wanted to get lean and look good at the beach. And trust me, it's not easy trying to get to 8% body fat when you're a full-time father and have a full-time job. If I can do it, anybody can. I know that sounds so cliche (sorry), but it's true. BUT it takes hard work and discipline; no pansy-ass excuses allowed. With that said, Martin makes it as easy as it can be.

Martin set me up with a precise plan to meet my body fat goals. In my case, I counted every calorie and followed his plan and watched 14 lbs of body fat fall off with very little, if at all, muscle loss. Most of my progress was seen in 8 weeks. I also maintained my strength in most areas and even got stronger in a few, specifically pull-ups.

I now employ IF in my everyday life. It's incredibly useful in times such as the holidays. It will allow you to eat what you want, employ a fast and get right back on track without gaining weight or sacrificing any progress. If you are struggling ridding that last bit of body fat, I highly recommend contacting Martin. I guarantee you'll see results and it will change your life and how you view calories, food, exercise, and intermittent fasting."

- Sterling P


Michael CE

Michael CE is on his 8th week and has currently lost 6.5 lbs, whilst gaining an appreciable amount of strength. I have no doubt he's gained muscle, as evident in a much thicker and muscular appearance in the front double biceps pose.

Before at 153 lbs



After at 146.5 lbs




Jaap V

Jaap saw good results in just 4 weeks.

Before at 201 lbs



After at 190 lbs



"I've been training for about 3,5 years now. All my knowledge is self-taught which left me frustrated with my results, especially when it came to my bodyfat. I could never find a good balance between eating enough to grow (I trained powerlifting specific mostly) and not overeating so my fat tissue would cover up my hard earned muscle.

I learned from Martin's approach a half year ago and started eating "the lean gains way". It made me more energetic and gave me less fuss with my meals. The only thing I didn't know was the macro ratio's Martin used with his clients. I decided to sign up with Martin as a client early October 2009 and within a few days I got all the info I needed.

The information I got was very thorough, I hardly had to ask Martin anything afterwards. The diet was very easy to follow and I got to eat the foods I liked, as long as I stuck to the macro's for that day. Martin's knowledge is great when it comes to dieting and training schedules for gaining muscle. I recommend him highly.

My stats before and after:
10th October: bodyweight 91kg's, waistline 88.5 cm
12th November: bodyweight 86kg's, waistline 84 cm
All this while even gaining some strength along the way!"

- Jaap V


Philip R

These pics ain't the best, but Philip improved his bodycomposition and strength significantly during the time I worked with him.

Before at 190 lbs



After at 181 lbs



"I'd been stuck in a rut. I had a great run at weight loss, down from just over 300lb to roughly 190. I was feeling great about the weight loss and coping with the psychological stuff of changing from a 'big' guy to a normal sized guy. I maintained the 190lb plus or minus 5 lbs for a good 6-8 months, so I felt good that my 'set point', if there is such a thing, had been changed. However, I really couldn't push down below about 187 for any period of time.

My body was a lot smaller and I had a lot of extra skin still but my belly skin had a fat layer behind it and I didn't have much muscle definition.

After lots of reviews of web sites and looking at a variety of other programs I decided to give Martin's LeanGains program a try. He was easy to engage with and the terms were straight forward. He also made it clear he didn't want any whiners, which I wouldn't be.

I happened to have gotten my body fat tested in a BodPod just before starting on the program so I had a pretty good idea of where I was starting from BF wise and I knew my weight, 191. The LeanGains intermittent fasting program was pretty easy to follow and I didn't mind the restricted eating hours at all. I did look forward to noon every day and I made sure to have my protein and cottage cheese just before 8pm.

The first month of working with Martin got me under 185 which was a good milestone for me and I felt stronger. I took a week off and then arranged for another month on LeanGains. This time I hoped to get to 180, and while there were some ups and downs, I basically made it, ok, it was 181.

Since just over 8 weeks had gone by I went back and had another BobPod test. To my surprise I had gone from 18.7%BF to a surprising 10.3%BF. The guy running the BodPod thought that seemed low from looking at me but he had calibrated it just before my test so the test stands.

What was really suprising was the large change in lean body mass, with only a 10lb body weight shift, I had actually lost more than 15lb of fat and gained 10lb of lean mass. So maybe it was really only 10lb loss of fat and 5lb gain of lean mass but I'm very pleased with the results.

My belly skin is still loose but there is less fat behind it and my torso and arms feel much stronger. I really feel 'lean' for the first time in my life!

Of course sticking to the protocol and calories was key but Martin's program worked as suggested, lowering my body fat while making me stronger at the same time. I also hit the targets I'd set out which had been so elusive for months before."

-Philip R, 57 years and still going strong.


Michael C

I've worked with Michael for quite some time now and we're currently trying to add some lean muscle to his frame. Here are the results from his diet a few months back, where he maintained (in some lifts actually gained) strength despite losing a substantial amount of weight.

Before at 168 lbs



After at 144 lbs



"I started working with Martin because I was looking for a new approach to dieting. Back in 2005, I started going to the gym and saw good results, dropping from 250 pounds to around 180. I did this without following any specific diet
recommendations. But then I learned, as many people do, a "better way": eat six meals a day and you'll see better results. I started following that recommendation while continuing to to the gym. However, I wasn't able to finish the job and drop the final excess pounds I was carrying.

I worked with other online coaches, who got me stronger, but I wasn't satisfied with my body composition. Not to mention, maintaining the insanity of eating six meals a day, every three hours for the past couple of years was exhausting. I was tired of it.

I first came across Martin in an interview and then read the many testimonials on his site. I decided to give his intermittent fasting approach a try - I had nothing to lose - and I enjoyed it. There was a freedom to it and I was seeing good results. But after having progress stall in the past, I decided that working with Martin would help ensure I complete my goal.

The past four months have been incredibly productive. I've nearly finished dropping the body fat I want to, and I haven't felt the need to have "cheat meals" or worry about not eating constantly. Martin has been a first-class coach, with a fun approach to weight training and a results-producing approach to dieting. If you've stopped seeing results in your dieting, I recommend working with Martin."

- Michael C


Andreaz and Mikael R

Here's a few pics of two clients that are 'lean gaining' it with my approach. Basically, adding muscle with a minimum of fat. They have both been featured on this site before. As you can see, there's not a big difference body fat wise in these pics vs the after-pics from the diet.



In the above pic, Mikael is only 3 lbs heavier in comparison to his lowest weight during the diet. This small weight gain translated into an impressive +10 lbs on his squat, + 35 lbs on his deadlift and +15 lbs on his bench.



In this pic, Andreaz is only 8 lbs heavier than his competition weight. You might have heard those crazy stories about how some guys gain 30-40 lbs in a few weeks after competing? Well, those stories are true. People often end up binging for weeks after competing. However, that isn't the case here. Andreaz is already up 15-20% in some compound movements, which is very impressive considering the small weight increase. He's almost as lean as on competion day.

Usually, people get too fat, too fast after finishing up their diet. They're soon back dieting again and often end up spinning their wheels for years by going back and forth all the time.

I actually created the Leangains concept to cater to those that wanted to look great at all times during the year (somewhat ironic since it works so well for cutting, which is what most of my clients are doing).

My philosophy is to gain weight very slowly and measure progress by strength gains in relation to body weight gain. There's a certain standard that needs to be met, such as x lbs of body weight gained must equal y lbs strength gained on different lifts. In my experience, relative strength gains are excellent indicators of lean mass gain in the intermediate and advanced lifter. To achieve this goal, specific caloric guidelines needs to be in place.


Patrick D

"I became very interested in the IF protocol promoted by Mr. Berkhan given academic physiology background. I am an exercise physiologist. However, given the standard dogma of frequent nutrition is optimal for strength gains and recovery, I was very skeptical at first. However, with Mr. Berkhan’s scientific explanations on forums, blogs, and website interviews, I became more aware that his IF protocol is based on actual metabolic and physiological research. Having said this, I thought I will give it a try. Mr. Berkhan’s detail and response time was very courteous and professional. His protocol templates were very well done, professional, concise, and straight to the point. This enabled me to understand more his methods and also substantially increase compliance to his guidelines.

My first 4 days on IF were hell, I though that there is no way I can do this. Given, the every 3 hour meal plan that I had for a number of years, it was definitely something hard to deal with initially. It was difficult for the fact, that I had to stop thinking about food and the mild headaches associated with the morning fast. Anyway, I persisted and on around the 6th to 7th day, everything started to sail pretty smoothly. First and foremost, the amount and quality of my energy was high. I was very focused and highly productive. Secondly, the cravings had subsided substantially and I found myself no longer thinking of food. Another important observation was that energy levels were apparent in my workouts. With each week, I started to notice everything getting better and better. After my 2nd week on IF, my weight had dropped 5 pounds with no adverse effects on strength and energy levels. To my amazement, week 3 and 4 were even better. Strength had improved bench press went up by 20 lbs, deadlift by 65 lbs, and squats by 30 lbs. All this with an extra 2 lb weight loss. I look leaner than I began with 4 weeks ago and feel so much healthier and energetic. He has definitely gained a lifetime client.

Do yourself a favor, if you are thinking of consulting with Mr. Berkhan, then do it! Mr. Berkhan is definitely a high standard resource and despite how different your exercise/fitness beliefs are with him, Mr. Berkhan has it down to a science for one thing: Results."

- Patrick D.


Erik L

"At the time I contacted Martin I had spent quite some time trying to get in shape using various training and diet routines. Without consistency and a clear goal, it had left me rather weak and with a couple of extra pounds in the wrong places. Through Martin’s program I was introduced to a completely new approach to diet and training which really got me going in the right direction.

First of all, I was very impressed by the material I received from Martin. It was extensive and it felt like every single detail had been taken into account. The first months I made some strength gains using the protocol, but naturally they stalled as I was getting lighter and lighter. Seen over the entire cutting period, I ended up 25 lbs lighter with strength slightly increased.

Concerning intermittent fasting it was a great relief not having to care about breakfast, it really decreased my morning stress. Not to mention the amount of time I have saved everyday by just eating 2-3 meals a day. Hunger of varying degree occurred during the end of the fast but knowing that a large meal was waiting for me, it was easy to withstand. During the 8 hour eating window my appetite was great and I had no problems eating the rather large post-workout meals from the meal plan. Despite being a bit liberal with food and drinks on Saturday nights I was constantly losing weight, not entirely linear though.

Martin keeps it rather short in email conversations and sticks to what is important, and he responds quickly to email questions. He is currently helping me with a new interesting routine to put on some muscle and I’m looking forward to see the results in a couple of months. Martin’s expertise is impressive and I definitely recommend consulting him regardless if you want to lose weight or gain muscle."

- Erik L

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pre-Workout Protein Boosts Metabolism

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We were recently on the topic of fasted training and the need for pre-workout protein intake as a slight compromise to training completely fasted.

I argued that the need for pre-workout protein intake was due to this being a case where the benefits (increased protein synthesis) simply outweighted the negatives (insulin increase; low insulin being a determinant of the fasting state). It's also known that BCAAs independently affects the same myogenic pathway through which fasted training may increase protein synthesis in response to post-workout nutrition.

On the whole, the scientific evidence that speaks in favor of pre-workout protein for increased protein synthesis and muscle growth is strong. Some researchers even speculate that it may be just as important as post-workout protein intake.

Last week I came across another study which makes a strong argument for pre-workout protein to facilitate body fat loss. Let me give you a brief summary of the findings.

Participants were recruited for two experiments where they ingested 18-19 g whey protein or carbs 20 min pre-workout. It should be noted that they all had weight-training experience; they were not newbies. Resting energy expenditure (REE) was measured on the morning before training and at the 24- and 48-hour marks post-workout. Respiratory Exchange Ratio (RER) was also measured at these time points; in short, RER is a way to quantify the ratio of fat, carb and protein oxidation at rest.

The training was in the form of a full-body session, with nine different movements trained 4 x 10-12, with a 2 min rest between sets. Bench press, squats and sit ups were some of the movements of choice.

Results showed that REE was significantly elevated at the 24-hour mark when compared to baseline.

Using a typical 80 kg/176 lbs male as an example, here's what the experiments showed

Baseline (before training): 1730 kcal

24 hours post-workout (carbs): 1790 kcal (+3.5% vs baseline)

24 hours post-workout (protein): 1880 kcal (+8.5% vs baseline)

48 hours post-workout: at this point, no clinically significant differences where seen between carbs and protein, but REE was still elevated approximately 6-6.5% above baseline in both experiments.

It's interesting to note that the carb-supplemented experiment caught up with the protein-supplemented experiment in terms of REE at the 48-hour mark, while lagging behind big time at the 24 hour mark. The difference of 90 kcal between carb and protein-supplemented experiments can be seen as fairly substantial in this context. It's more than what many thermogenic supplements would yield. The degree of latency is also interesting. One would hardly think that your pre-workout nutrient intake would affect protein synthesis 24 hours later.

REE was tilted towards increased fat burning at the 24-hour mark, but this effect was not affected by pre-workout nutrition. In this case there were no differences between protein or carbs.


Why does pre-workout protein boost metabolic rate when carbs doesn't?


The higher REE observed in the protein-supplemented experiment can be explained by increased muscle protein synthesis, which is a metabolically costly process. Older studies show that consuming pre-workout protein increase protein synthesis far more effectively than pre-workout carbs. This effect is due to shuttling amino acids to the working muscles, which in turn may increases protein synthesis for up to 48 hours. It goes without saying that if no dietary amino acids are present at this time, the effect would be blunted, which is what occurs if one would work out completely fasted or with carbs only.

The researchers put forth another hypothesis for the increased REE seen in the protein supplemented group. Pre-workout protein blunts cortisol throughout the day, which is another effect not seen fasted or with carbs only. In this context, lower cortisol could boost metabolic activity of muscle protein synthesis by allowing it to go on unscathed (cortisol increase protein breakdown and decrease synthesis).

In short, you have everything to gain by ingesting protein shortly prior to your "fasted" training session. The argument that pre-workout protein would interfere with fat burning can be laid to rest once and for all. Pre-workout protein will not only lead to better muscle and strength gains, but also help with fat loss due to it's effects on metabolic rate.

To summarize:

* Ideally, ingest 10 g branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) or 10 g essential amino acids (EAA) 5-15 mins prior to training.

* Alternatively, ingest 30 g of whey protein 5-15 mins prior to training. This will yield similar amounts of BCAA as the above protocol.

* Break the fast post-workout. Your 8 hour feeding window starts here.

* Ideally, break the fast with your largest meal and taper caloric content of meals downwards throughout the day. End the 8-hour feeding window with a lower carb meal containing slow digesting protein such as cottage cheese or eggs. Meat served with fibrous veggies is another option (meat is a fairly "fast" protein, but fiber will slow digestion).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fasted Training Boosts Muscle Growth?

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A recent study shows fasted training affects the post-workout anabolic response to weight training more favorably than fed-state training.

This study is very interesting to say the least, since it lends scientific support to explain the beneficial effects from both fasted-training and Leangains-style intermittent fasting. Let me give you the lowdown on this study in layman's terms.

Weight training activates enzymes and switches on genes that up regulates protein synthesis in muscles. Out of these signalling mechanisms, the phosphorylation, "activity" plainly speaking, of p70s6 kinase may serve as an indicator of muscle growth, along with other myogenic transcription factors. Myogenic meaning from within the muscle. Nutrition no doubt affects the myogenic signaling mechanisms, but it's still not fully understood to what degree.

In this study, subjects were split into two groups that were trained on two occasions separated by three weeks. The three-week rest period between sessions served as a "washout" period, in order to make sure that the prior session didn't interfere with the results obtained during the second test.

The workouts were fairly basic whole-body sessions: 3 x 8 in seven movements such as bench press, overhead press, curls and leg press.

One of the sessions (F) were performed on an empty stomach after an overnight fast.

The other session (B) was performed in the fed state. Subjects were given a breakfast of 722 kcal composed of 85% carbs, 11% protein and 4% fat, and training was initiated 90 minutes after the meal.

After the weight training session, both groups rested for 4 hours. At the one- and four-hour marks, muscle biopsies and blood tests were obtained . Participants were also also given a recovery drink to sip each hour during the rest period.

Results revealed that the F session had twice as high levels of p70s6k in comparison to the B when measured at the one-hour mark post-workout. Other myogenic transcription factors were also higher at this point, though not quite as pronounced as p70s6k. At the four-hour mark, the differences between the two groups had evened out.

Why may fasted training be beneficial for the post-workout anabolic response?

The researchers concluded that "Our results indicate that prior fasting may stimulate the intramyocellular anabolic response to ingestion of a carbohydrate/protein/leucine mixture following a heavy resistance training session. "

Among other things, increased levels of p70s6k may lead to a faster transport of amino acids into the muscle cell membranes, which should lead to a more rapid and potent anabolic response to post-workout nutrient ingestion. The effects seen on the other myogenic signaling mechanisms could also affect muscle growth through other pathways.

It seems that the increased anabolic activity seen post-workout is a compensatory response to the increased catabolism that occurs during fasted state training. Very interesting. The big question is if there would be a net difference in muscle growth at the end of the day. Training on an empty stomach will cause greater catabolism in the short run, but will it yield greater gains in the long run? Do we make a small sacrifice in order to receive a greater reward?

Well, I think we can leverage the results of this study to our benefit and sidestep the negatives if we ask ourselves why, relative to the fasted group, p70s6k and the other myogenic transcription factors were inhibited after a pre-workout meal. Or rather the highly insulinogenic pre-workout meal served in the study -- a whopping 153 g high glycemic index carbs.

There's no clear answer here, but other studies have suggested that carb intake during an endurance training can blunt the expression of several metabolic genes post-exercise. Insulin may play a role here, for sure.

Another way to think of it is that by providing nutrients to the body, exercise is experienced by the body as less of a stressor compared to fasted-state training. No need to adapt or compensate when all is provided for you. A similar phenomenon can be seen with antioxidant intake, where recent studies show that ingesting antioxidants from supplements weakens the body's own response to deal with free radicals created by training. We are making it easy for the body and that may be a suboptimal way to train.

So do I suggest everyone start training fasted from now on? Of course not. Remember, it is still not known if the net effect of fasted state training will lead to more favorable results in the long run.

However, I do suggest the following:

* Make sure that the great majority of your daily allotment of calories and carbs are ingested in the post-workout period, and not before.

* The immediate pre-workout meal should contain no more than a moderate amount of low glycemic index carbs. The exact amount would depend on many factors, total workout volume being the biggest one to consider, but a good guideline for a moderate volume weight training session is approximately 0.6 - 0.8 g carb per kilogram body weight or 0.3 - 0.4 g per pound of body weight. Have this meal 1.5 - 2.5 hours before your training session.

* For fasted sessions, ingest 10 g branched chain amino acids (BCAA) shortly prior (5-15 mins) to your training session. This does not count towards the 8-hour feeding window that I advocate post-workout; that starts with your post-workout meal. By ingesting BCAA pre-workout, we can sidestep the increased protein breakdown of fasted training while still reaping the benefits of the increased anabolic response as seen in this study. Not only that, BCAAs actually increase phosphorylation of p70s6k when ingested in the fasted state prior to training. So by training fasted, with BCAA intake prior to sessions, we get a double whammy of increased p70s6k phosphorylation that should create a very favorable environment for muscle growth in the post-workout period.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Meal Frequency Study

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This just in:

Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet.

Well, nothing new here really, but it bears repeating: a high meal frequency does not speed up metabolism or fat loss. Another nail in the coffin for that tired old myth.

Since this is a fresh study, there's always that tiny glimmer of hope that it might get picked up by mainstream media. Just the other day I had the great misfortune to come across "expert" fat loss advice in one of the news mags. Yup, there it was again, the importance of stoking the metabolic furnace with meals every second to third hour. How predictable.

Anyway, here's some highlights from the fulltext version of that study;

"...The premise underlying the present study was that increasing meal frequency would lead to better short-term appetite regulation and increased dietary compliance; furthermore, it was hypothesised that these predicted beneficial effects of increased meal frequency could have resulted from more favourable gut peptide profiles, potentially leading to greater weight loss. Under the conditions described in the present study, all three hypotheses were rejected."

"...We had postulated that increasing meal frequency would enhance the compliance to the energy restricted diet thus leading to greater weight loss, an effect possibly mediated by increased fullness. The present results do not support this hypothesis."

"...According to the present results, increasing meal frequency did not change the daily profiles of peptide YY or ghrelin, nor did it favourably impact appetite parameters."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview with Kristine Weber: Part Two

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Part two of my interview with nordic body fitness champ and intermittent fasting user Kristine Weber.



Me: Could you describe your training routine - for example, do you have a preference for lower or higher volume, or lower or higher rep ranges? Do you stick with the basics or do you include a lot of assistance movements to target smaller muscle groups?

Kristine: I like to variate my training when it comes to volume and rep ranges. I have stuck with a 2-split since I started and it works good for me. I prefer lower reps with higher volume, so I often train a 5x5 program. Then I usually go over to high reps with lower volume, I try to have a period of 3-4 weeks before I change it around again. I have since the summer trained after something called "myo-reps" and it has worked very well. It emphasizes the importance of increasing volume after every pass - it is easy to forget sometimes, routines usually take over. I like the combination of both basics and assistance, but my priorities are basics and free weights.

Me: I see. I like the fact that you're currently doing 5x5 and not some foo-foo routine. Might set a few of my female readers on the right path. Make them steer clear of the usual pump 'n tone bullshit. You've called yourself a perfectionist. How does this quality affect your training? Does it cause stress? If so, how do manage your stress?

Kristine: I call myself a perfectionist, yes. That can work as a motivation, but be careful not to let it bring you down. I always want to be the best I can - and when I reach a goal I set another one almost immediately. I have always wanted to do things in my own way, and I don't like asking for help. I like it tough and independent. I love training, especially when I experience "good" stress and I often feel strong because of the pressure I put on myself. That is what has brought me to where I am now, hard work and no breaks.

I have also experienced a lot of bad stress, the kind that will eat you up inside. That is why I emphasize the importance of having a balance in life. As long as you're aware of it you can do something about it. And part of having a good balance is knowing that everything will fall into place if you give it some time. Some things are more important than others, so pick your battles wisely.

Me: Wise words. I know what you mean. On to something completely different. Obviously a very sensitive topic, but how common is steroid usage among your peers?

Kristine: I have chosen to follow my own plan and as a result of this I have very little to do with the environment, therefore I don't have much insight as to how common usage is. I do know that it is more uncommon to not use. I have taken a stand and I am proud to say that I'm not even close to ever consider it.



Me: That's a very healthy and sound mindset to have. Glad to hear it. You've had a lot of success in a short amount of time: what else do you desire to achieve in the sport?

Kristine: I have achieved more than I could dream of in this short period of time, it gives me motivation to continue. I would like to compete in figure, USA some time in the future. My physique is not only more suitable there than in Europe, but it's also my ideal and what I want to accomplish body-wise.

Me: Excellent. I wish you all the luck in the world. Finally, what are the three most critical pieces of advice you have for the female reader that wants to lose fat and gain muscle? Diet, training, attitude, anything you can think of.

Kristine:

Training: Don't be afraid to train hard! Girls have to lift those heavy weights in order to see progression. I also recommend cardio in your everyday life, it doesn't have to be for hours or in the morning - do it whenever it fits your schedule.

Diet: Learn as much as you can about your own body; when do you like to eat, how much do you like eat in a meal etc. The main key is to eat 400-500 kcal less than you use every day, when or how you eat is not important. In order to lose fat it is important to eat clean, high-protein food and always a lot of vegetables. There are a lot of healthy desserts you can make as well.

Don't overanalyze everything, keep it simple and fun.

Attitude: The only person who can change your life, body and mind is you. Find out what kind of changes you want to make, learn about all the healthy foods out there and get in to it. The first step is always tough, but the sooner the better.
You have to believe in yourself, we all have willpower - more than we might think.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Interview with Kristine Weber: Part One

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Andreaz Engström wasn't the only one at the Nordic Championships using intermittent fasting to take first place in his category.

Norwegian beauty and body fitness gold winner Kristine Weber is a big fan of the approach as well.






Me: Tell us a little about yourself - anything at all you'd like to share with someone that doesn't know you.

Kristine: I am a goal-oriented girl who works very hard to achieve what I set my mind to. I never give up and I prefer to do things my own way - this means that I proudly can thank my own determination and knowledge if it goes well, and if it doesn't I only have myself to blame and can and will learn from my mistakes. My training is my passion, and my main motivation is good health and just enjoying life with a fit and lean body. I work as a controller in finance and I love cats.

Me: Sounds like you have a solid mindset. I like it. How did you come across intermittent fasting and for how long have you been using it - you've mentioned that this eating pattern came naturally to you, and that you've never been a breakfast eater?

Kristine: Breakfast is something I eat occasionally on sundays or whenever I'm staying at a hotel, because I do enjoy a good breakfast - just not in my everyday life. Since I went to junior high I have prefered to skip breakfast, I've never felt a big hunger sensation early in the morning. Finally I got so fed up with eating just for the sake of it, so I began to eat my first meal at lunchtime - sometimes even later. I started to have this as a routine when I began to work after my studies, mainly because I get up at 5 am in the morning and the last thing on my mind at that time is food. I enjoy eating later in the day, especially after I come home from work and training. I first started reading about fasting/IF and all the benefits concerning this for over 2 years ago when my better half, David* started posting articles and research done on this subject. I was very glad to find out that I could continue my diet the way I had been doing for almost 10 years without any concerns about "your metabolism will slow down if you don't eat every third hour" and all these myths, in addition this way of eating has a lot of benefits for me.

* I helped David Höök get started with intermittent fasting a few years ago. He later went on and took first place in classic bodybuilding (Loaded Cup -07, Denmark). You can find him in the testimonials section (second from the top).




Me: Needless to say, I'm not much of a breakfast eater either. Could you describe a typical day in terms of diet and training?

Kristine: A typical day goes like this

5:00 - get up and get ready for work
6:15 - at work
9:00 - have had 4-5 cups of green tea by now
12:00 - a big tuna salad for lunch if I'm hungry, otherwise I'll have a fruit (before a competiton I almost always skip lunch).
15:15 - at the gym; weight training (2-split) and cardio (I always do my cardio workout in the afternoon, besides the weekends)
17:00 - at home, a post-workout meal is usually cottage cheese with protein powder + some cereal, protein pancakes or an omelet
19:00 - dinner is usually fish, ground beef, pork and always with lots of vegetables.
21:00 - a small meal which is often similar to the one at 17:00, f.ex cottage cheese and some nuts
22:00 - good night, sleep tight

Me: Cool. So that's a nine hour feeding window, which is fairly close to the ten hour feeding window I usually recommend for women. You've only been training since 2007. What resources did you first turn to?

Kristine: I have danced ballet since I was a little girl, so just over 20 years now. I joined a gym for 4 years ago because of a heart diagnosis, and that is one of the best decisions I have made. I started doing cardio and I went to many of the group lessons: aerobic, easy weight training, bodypump and so on. I did this for about 1.5 years and I transformed my body in a way I didn't think was possible. I realized by now that I had to lift heavier weights on my own in order to continue my good progress, so I did - in Aug 2007. I started eating more vegetables and more proteins, and 7 months later I was ready for my first figure competition.

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This concludes part one of the interview. Stay tuned for part two where we'll talk some more about training among other things. Kristine will also share some valuable advice for female readers out there. In the meanwhile, feel free to check out Kristine's blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Questions & Answers

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It's time for another Q&A session.

Intermittent fasting and women

Q: I'm a bit confused. Some people say I should do 16 hours of fasting, while others say that you now recommend 14 hours for women?

A: Females do 14 hrs fasting by default. The fast typically lasts 16 hrs, and is usually initiated in the evening. So in practical terms you might have your last meal some time between 8 and 10 pm in the evening and break the fast around noon on the next day.

But for women my default approach is to actually start off with 14 hrs and see how they do on that before eventually moving them to 16 hrs. When you look at the studies on gender and fasting, you tend to see that women may have slightly more adverse reactions to fasting than men, such as some degree of irritability and increased attention to food cues. 16 hrs is hardly prolonged fasting, but I like to play it safe, so that's why I have female clients fasting for a shorter time at the beginning.

Intermittent fasting at higher body fat percentages

Q: All the guys I've read that have tried this, are all lean, I mean, if you're that lean already, going on a keto diet would do exactly what intermittent fasting would do to YOU. Id like to see someone over 20% bodyfat share his experience.

A: Not at all. I have many clients with 20% body fat or more and they are doing great. Some of them are, for the first time in their lives, finding that they can show 100% adherance to a diet protocol.

I modify the caloric guidelines and macros depending on body fat %, as my first priority is always to lean people down if necessary. Besides that, I don't see how body fat would play into making or breaking an intermittent fasting diet.

There are many psychological sides to eating. I think smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day, even if they are low carb, may be a bad choice for some people; acting as a trigger for cravings or increased appetite, for example. A conventional high frequency "nibbling" approach is working against their weight loss efforts. It's often counterproductive.

But knowing that you can have a substantial meal after the fast makes dietary adherance very easy according to many of my clients. In my experience this is one great benefit to intermittent fasting that caters specifically to people with a higher body fat. They are big eaters, so they like to eat big. Intermittent fasting fills that need.

Intermittent fasting, mood and appetite suppression

Q: I remember you saying something about a minimum time for the fast ... like 12 hours ? After that point "stuff" started happening ?

A: Hours 8-12 are pretty neutral. Not noticing much. Sometimes I get a short hunger pang, which disappears rather quickly and is replaced by total absence of hunger.

Hours 12-16 I get a sense of focus and wellbeing. I feel inspired and involved in whatever I'm doing (usually working on consultations or writing articles). Call it wired if you will. The thought of food remains unappealing until the very last hour. Most people experience the same effects in the same time interval.

Intermittent fasting and regular meal patterns: mixing it up

Q: What's peoples experience with intermittent fasting on the week days and a "regular" diet on the weekend or something like that? I think that would fit my schedule perfectly, especially since i am much more active on the weekend and play sports/do cardio sometimes multiple times and very spread out.

A: Eating on regular intervals each day has it's benefits. Breaking the pattern may screw a bit with the ghrelin pulse. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone which rise in anticipation of a meal and is in tune with your day-to-day meal pattern. This is also part of why you can go for 16 hrs without getting hungry once you get used to it.

Practically, this might mean that it could be a bit harder to get back to fasting when you break the pattern (weekends). On the other hand, I've done it personally many times and I haven't experienced any problems at all. Fasting is still very easy after a day of more regularily spaced eating. It might take several days of a new meal pattern before a new ghrelin pulse pattern develops, so go ahead and try it.

On breaking the fast

Q: I break the fast with a large bowl of oatmeal and a whey shake, and have noticed I get a bit drowsy shortly after the meal. Any suggestions?

A: While I don't know the particular macros of your meal, I would wager it's fairly insulinogenic and provide a substantial glycemic load - and that may be the problem. Ditch the whey shake for whole food protein such as meat or eggs, and oats for something along the lines of veggies, beans and lentils (or other lower glycemic index foods with a decent amount of fiber). If you must, you can have your oats and whey post-workout instead.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do Not Cheat on Tom's Challenge

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Or I'm going to be in trouble. I just spoke with Tom and you should use the book for your diet and training.

My offer still stands.

500$ cash prize

to the winner as long as you use the link in this post when you make the purchase. Nevermind the part about two to three meals a day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheat on Tom's Challenge

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My good friend Tom Venuto has thrown out a Holiday Fitness Challenge to his readers.

Some might recall my discussion with Tom a while back, where I confronted him on his views on meal frequency. To my disappointment, he ended up agreeing with me on the issue that a high meal frequency does zilch to boost your metabolism.

To be honest, I was secretly looking for a fierce debate. But Tom is one of the few gurus out there that actually cares about being scientifically correct and updated, which is a rarity in the fitness industry. For that he gets my respect.



His book is also the most complete package about weight training and nutrition that money can buy. You can read my review here.

I'll pay you 500$

For those motivated, I encourage you to go and cheat on Tom's challenge by using a low meal frequency diet of two to three meals a day. I know Tom is a fan of higher meal frequencies, and it would be sweet if someone won the challenge by not using the higher meal frequency approach suggested in Burn The Fat.

The registration has just opened and the winners get a trip to Jamaica.

On top of that, I'll personally reward the winners with a 500$ cash prize if the following conditions are met:

1) Eat two to three big meals a day (instead of smaller, more frequency meals).

2) Register and make the purchase(s) via the links in this post. The name on the credit card owner is what makes you eligible to receive the 500$ cash prize* from me.

* transaction via PayPal.

...And one more thing - I will not be available to coach you during the competition, so please do not send me e-mails asking for diet advice- that's what Tom's book is for. You'll also get even more great information from Tom if you sign up for an Inner Circle Membership.

This should be fun. Good luck.

P.S. Registration is open until November 25th.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fasting and Metabolism

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Made a few short comments in response to a blog post I just saw on The Fitness Spotlight.

The post is here and below are my responses to some of the claims made.

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Just a few short comments on some claims here. Sorry if this has been covered somewhere among the comments, I haven't read through them all.

"Liver glycogen levels are depleted within 8-10 hours. Muscle glycogen falls by 50% over 24-hours, even without exercise. "

False on both accounts. Liver glycogen is completely depleted in approx 28 hrs (Cahill et al). And the second statement is also incorrect. In humans, muscle glycogen is barely affected at all after 24 hrs, assuming no strenous activity.

"After depleting glycogen, amino acids are recycled to be broken down for glycogen through gluconeogenesis. "

This is an ongoing process, but liver glycogen does not need to be depleted in order for amino acids to contribute to the maintenance of blood glucose. The longer the fast, the greater the contribution - for example, after 16 hrs, aminos will start contributing more than 50% to the amount of glucose in your blood stream. After 24-28 hrs, 100%.

"We see increases in three of the four hormones driving lipolysis, indicating a propensity towards fat burning. Somewhere around 12-18 hours, lipolysis becomes a major energy pathway, producing energy from body fat. "

Yes. In fact, after an overnight fast, 2/3 of the energy burnt are free fatty acids. Eat breakfast and you'll be putting the brakes on this process, of course.

"T3 levels fall slightly, indicating a slightly lower metabolic rate. Urinary nitrogen excretion falls, indicating less catabolism of muscle proteins. "

No. Are you looking at rats now again? Because the downregulation of T3 takes more than 72 hrs to occur in humans. A short fast in the 16-24 hr range certainly doesn't impact negatively.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Questions & Answers

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Quite busy lately, therefore the lack of posts. But I'm still alive and here comes some more questions & answers.

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The window of opportunity

Q: Understanding that a caloric surplus is required for muscle building, is there a window post workout where nutrient partitioning is greater towards muscle building? I would think that the nutrient partitioning "curve" would ultimately swing back to muscle maintenance or fat gain in the absence of muscle stimulus, but the question is how long after that stimulus?

A: Have a pre-workout meal, train, go home and fix yourself a big meal. No need to count minutes or stress about this stuff. The 1-3 hours figure is for fasted-state training and not applicable to how most people go about their diet and training*. The 'window of opportunity' for nutrient partitioning post workout is much longer than a mere 3 hours.**

And since this question usually comes up in this context, never train completely fasted. Have some BCAAs/whey beforehand.

* Protein synthesis peaks acutely 1-3 hours post-workout and it is advantageous to have amino acids circulating in your blood stream during this period. Studies show that participants ingesting protein during this time frame gain more muscle - but these studies are performed on completely fasted individuals. For someone ingesting protein through a pre-workout meal or other source of protein pre-workout, those amino acids would be used for protein synthesis (making it less essential to stress about the post-workout shake).

** Protein synthesis is elevated above baseline for at least 24-36 hours after weight training.

Late night hunger

Q: It seems like lately, I have been getting a case of the late night (around 9pm or so) munchies. I usually eat dinner around 5:30 everyday, but I always seem to get hungry around the same time. I have always heard that you shouldn't have carbs within a few hours of bedtime, is there any merit to this?

A: One of my biggest downfalls before coming up with the 16-8 system/IF was late night hunger. The best solution was the simplest one, which meant eating a lot more before bedtime. Irrational fear of fat gain, much a consequence of the don't-eat-carbs-after-x pm-bullshit-myth, held me back from doing it in the past. I did my reading, figured out there wasn't much to it, and decided to try a different approach. Finally got lean as hell eating big in the evening, sometimes way past midnight. Lesson learned. Hope that answered your question (hint: a big fat no).

Catabolic cardio?

Q: Is there any way to perform cardio in a way that limits its catabolic effects? Is their any benefit to doing submaximal intervals vs. steady state?

A: The type of cardio that has the least impact on your recovery capabilities/gym performance will be the least "catabolic". If your conditioning is not adequate, don't play around too much with HIIT. Go with low impact cardio performed for duration rather than intensity if you want to play it safe, and if metabolic conditioning is of a lesser priority than fat loss.

Sodium and weight loss

Q: When I used to have to cut weight for wrestling I would eliminate sodium content about 3 days prior and see a nice drop. Also, drinking about a gallon of distilled water always makes me eliminate a lot of water retention(yes more than just chugging tap water)... purely anecdotal I realize and of course that might just be for the lack of sodium in distilled water. Any truth to this?

A: Yes, cutting sodium, or rather reducing it compared to your daily baseline intake, will cause you to shed water. Reduce sodium for a day and odds are you'll wake up a little lighter - but you'll bounce back on day 3, since this only works in the very short term. The hormones regulating water balance adapts rapidly (and you need to reduce sodium further to drop more water). And you're right on the other claim, as tap water usually contains (very) small amounts of sodium.

Fat loading

Q: Basically, we all know about carb-loading. This author promotes fat loading of 12-24 hrs, saying it will jack up the enzymes involved with burning fat. Drop the dietary fat back down low, and the enzymes will remain high for several days, helping to increase the rate at which body fat is burned. Thoughts?

A: Let's see

1) IMTG stores are extremely small vs glycogen stores
2) dietary fat has much less of an impact on leptin vs carbs
3) excess dietary fat gets stored efficently as adipose tissue vs carbs

Yeah, sounds like a great concept. Like carb loading, without any of the benefits.

Lyle McDonald chimed in:

Everything I"ve seen shows that the increase in fat use for fuel has everything to do with reducing carbs and nothing to do with increasing dietary fat per se.
Consider that the body will shift to using fat for fuel under the following conditions

1. lowcarb/ketogenic diet
2. protein sparing modified fast
3. complete starvation

What's the commonality? The lack of carbs. NOT the presence of dietary fat.

The bottom line is this, ingestion of dietary fat has very little impact on the body's use of fat for fuel and this has been shown endlessly.

EFA and growth hormone

Q: I was arguing with my friend regarding this issue. He stated that EFA (Essential Fatty Acids) slowed down the release of GH (Growth Hormone), however, i disagreed with him. We had this bet over it and i was wondering whats the truth behind this?

A: Eating anything affects basal levels of GH. Starve and you'll have high basal GH all the time. However, diet does not interfere with the nocturnal and the two daily pulses (though they are augmented with fasting). I am unaware of anything specifically related to EFA* and it's probably bullshit, as I have looked into this quite a bit.

* I would expect EFAs to affect GH no differentely than any other fatty acid, which is by lowering it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Questions & Answers

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This is the first in a series of posts with the most useful replies I made in the íntermittent fasting thread on www.bodybuilding.com. Answers have been edited/updated when needed.

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Calorie Restriction (CR) vs Intermittent Fasting

Q: I think CR in general is probably more healthy for some people than "fasting".

A: Depends on how you define "healthy". The whole premise of CR for life extension may sound great on paper, but it's not much fun to chronically restrict calories for rest of your life in order to live a few years more. Especially if the price you pay is hunger and weakness.

Studies hint that IF may have life extension benefits on it's own, some of them are unique to IF and not seen with CR: disease prevention, protection against brain disorders (i.e Alzheimers), immune system support and improved pulmonary function, even on higher calorie intakes.

IF at energy balance > CR.

So perhaps we can get all the benefits of CR, and then some, without having to restrict intake as harshly. Here's an example of some of the exclusive benefits of IF vs CR;

"...Nevertheless, intermittent fasting resulted in beneficial effects that met or exceeded those of caloric restriction including reduced serum glucose and insulin levels and increased resistance of neurons in the brain to excitotoxic stress. Intermittent fasting therefore has beneficial effects on glucose regulation and neuronal resistance to injury in these mice that are independent of caloric intake. "

From "Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake" by Anson et al.

Then again, it may be wishful thinking. Main support for the hypothesis comes from animal research, human research is still sparse. However, there are some recent studies that lends support for the hypothesis to be valid for humans as well, for example:

"...These findings demonstrate rapid and sustained beneficial effects of ADCR on the underlying disease process in subjects with asthma, suggesting a novel approach for therapeutic intervention in this disorder. " (the authors conclude that alternate day fasting > CR)

From "Alternate Day Calorie Restriction Improves Clinical Findings and Reduces Markers of Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in Overweight Adults with Moderate Asthma" by Johnson et al.

The mechanism by which fasting protects the heart is not known, but may involve an enhanced ability of cells to cope with oxidative and metabolic stress. Wan et al speculated that...

"A recent study showed that alternate-day caloric restriction can reduce systemic markers of inflammation and oxidative stress and can reduce symptoms in subjects with asthma" (Here they are referring to the human trial by Johnson et al)

Because...

"Intermittent Fasting imposes a mild beneficial stress on cells."

And affects adiponectin:

"Adiponectin concentration was twofold greater in the plasma of rats that had been maintained for 3 months on the IF diet"

Conluding that Adiponectin may possibly explain some of the beneficial effects:

"Adiponectin has previously been shown to have cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory actions. "

Yet finishing with some reservations, as the research is still scarce on this topic:

"IF results in changes in levels of several circulating factors including decreased levels of insulin, leptin and cholesterol, and increased levels of testosterone [27]*. It will therefore be important to elucidate the roles for, and interactions, of these different factors in cardiovascular responses to IF. "

* The effects on testosterone seems unique to rodents so far (personal conslusion based on my review of the topic).

The above is from "Cardioprotective effect of intermittent fasting is associated with an elevation of adiponectin levels in rats" by Wan et al. A recent paper discussed the cardioprotective benefits with regards to humans:

"Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults" by Varady et al.

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I wrote the above almost two years ago (added some recent studies for the sake of context). Since then, there's been some additional findings, though nothing groundbreaking. There's a lot on this topic, but I'm gonna cut it short here. Have written plenty on this in the book. To summarize my response to the question: intermittent fasting may or may not have exclusive benefits which cannot be obtained with a traditional, calorie restricted diet. However, due to the scarcity of research on humans, and due to many confounders present in the available research (i.e some of the studies on IF/ADF does not use a CR control group), it's hard to say anything for certain yet.

Intermittent Fasting and PPOS

Q: The Life Extension Foundation is big on the idea that big meals = elevated post prandial oxidative stress (PPOS) which is obviously a negative. Any opinion on this seemingly negative effect of IF/Big Meals?

A: Studies* show oxidative stress is less on intermittent fasting compared to regular calorie restriction. Yes, even when comparing the same calorie intake with varying meal splits (i.e 3 big meals vs 6-9 small meals). The neuroprotective effects of the fast yields the net effect of PPOS being lesser on IF - despite larger meals.

* in ref to Anson et al.

Catabolism during the fast

Q: So, how long does it take for significant muscular catabolism to start? Over 24 hrs?

A: That's context dependent, but consider that blood glucose is maintained within range mostly by gluconeogenesis beyond the 16 hr mark*. That answer might not make a lot of sense, but eat sufficient amounts of slow releasing protein before going to bed and it shouldn't be an issue even if you go for longer than 16 hrs.**

They key factor in whether you'll lose muscle or not is the severity of calorie deficit, not meal time intervals within a non-retarded range.

* note that the studies looking at this contained nutrional regimens very different from what we are doing (i.e Cahill et all fed test subjects 100 g cho before bed time, no protein, and then had them fast for several days to gauge the rate by which liver glycogen vs gluconeogenesis contributes to maintain blood glucose).

** hell there's even a study out there suggesting proteolytic gene expression does not become turned on until the 40 hr mark or so.

A more recent question on the same topic -

Q: Hey guys, got a question about fasting length. I'm currently IF'ing by doing two 24 hour fasts per week (two days with complete fasting) My question is, could I do both fasts consecutively and do one large 48 hour fast? What is the longest amount of time that it is safe to fast before LBM loss/metabolic downregulation?

A: Safest? Well, consider that de novo gluconeogenesis escalates beyond 16 hrs. 16 hrs is the tipping point - your glucose demands after this point is met primarily (more than 50%) by conversion of stored amino acids into blood glucose. Liver will support the brunt of glucose needs before that point. Theoretically, proteolysis will occur to the greatest extent 24-48 hrs into the fast. Of course, there are numerous confounders here to take into account (i.e a casein heavy meal before the fast will delay proteolysis further).

Metabolic downregulation? Up to 72 hrs according to most studies.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Some pics

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It's been a while now, so here's a few recent ones.

This is more or less the condition I maintain at all times of the year. Weight is approximately 195-200 lbs. I'm not sure of the exact number, since my scale is broke.








Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Randomness

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I get these e-mails from time to time and it's always a pleasure to read them.

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"Martin,

after all the knowledge I have gathered through your site, and from your articles I decided to give this a go when i started a mini-cut.

After 5 weeks of mini-cutting I went from 167.5 lbs to 160.7lbs, Most of the loss would be fat throughout the entire process. Following the IF principles was cake, after day 1-2 the hunger cravings were non-existant, and everything was smooth sailing.

Eating big, and letting the body recover while keeping workouts simple and to the point were nothing but a walk in the park. Intensity was high and energy was beyond belief.

I really cannot exaggerate how easy of a lifestyle this is to a college student who spends countless hours in the library, studying, and working to support the needs to complete a college career and get a job. After 5 weeks of attempting this on my own I am sold on your research, your lifestyle, and the way at which people have been doing this for years.

After reading your testimonials, responses, and following an individual on bodybuilding.com who was a client of yours I always wanted to give this a shot, and did not know if I could change from the whole 6 meals a day thing, I have always had thoughts and wanted to just eat a massive meal 2-3 times a day and call it quits. Well reality sunk in, I gave in, and it is something that has happened to work very well for me.

Here is a link to my workout journal, and I took two videos. One of Before, and One of after (from 9-14-09 to 10-19-09 (Today)) Showing the changes my body experienced while utilizing IF on a cutting diet. Calories never dropped below 2500 on workout days while off days were a touch lower with lower carbs (i know you advocate that). Based off what everyone has said about this lifestyle it came true for me.

I wanted to e-mail and tell you this, that if I do decide to do a contest in the future, I will need your assistance with dialing in my body for the final weeks and work my way towards placing in a bodybuilding show (a dream of mine).

Thank you for all of your advice on the bodybuilding.com forums. It is GREATLY appreciated, because half of the people on there dont know jack shit.

Best Wishes Always,

- Bob Kupniewski

The Link and the transformation videos after a 5 week IF experiment:

http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showpost.php?p=399364911&postcount=7383

I hope you get some good feedback from this, and understand what you are doing is working, and the more you promote the greater of an individual you will become. Keep up the hard work."

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By the way, I'm planning a "Best Of" post based on the long running intermittent fasting thread on bodybuilding.com. It will contain expanded and updated answers to questions posted there, and should be a good complement to Questions and Answers on this blog.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Champ

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I'm happy to announce that Andreaz Engström won the -70 kg class at the Nordic Bodybuilding Championships in Trondheim, Norway, today.

The competition pits competitors from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against each other.



Third time's a charm, as the saying goes, and this has been an exciting journey for us both. Drawing upon experiences from his first two competitions, I managed to nail the final two weeks perfectly this time around. In combination with his flawless compliance, victory was achieved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Paleo Cookbook Book Review

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Mission Statement: all reviews will be my honest assessment of the material in question. My opinion will never be influenced by personal bias or my opinion of the author.

The Paleo Cookbook


Recipes for the Paleo Diet - Two Cookbooks - 120 Recipes Each!


"These are the results my clients have experienced and that i have experienced as well - that's why I'm a huge advocate for the paleo diet and I believe you too can experience how amazing it is to suddenly be able to go through your days with more energy, while seeing a happier, healthier body in the mirror."

– Nikki Young


Who is this book for?

It’s for someone looking to adopt a healthy diet and maybe lose a few pounds in the process. The book may also be for someone with a special preference for paleo dieting or a person looking for some new meal ideas to add to their daily menu.

What will I learn from it?

You'll learn to cook and prepare a variety of paleo meals for different occasions.

Strong points

* It features a very extensive list of recipes. Seven books all in all; two main books, and five theme-based books (i.e chocolate and capsicum sandwiches). So in addition to meals that would make good diet staples, there are also paleo-based dessert recipes and snacks.

* Excellent layout with high-quality pictures for every recipe.

* Clear instructions on how to prepare the meals.

* Contains creative solutions to make paleo friendly versions of modern foods such as noodles and sandwiches.

Weak points

* I couldn't find any major flaws with this product. It delivers exactly what it promises. One drawback is that nutritional information is not listed for each meal, but that's not hard to look up yourself either. The book also contains some recipes with "forbidden" foods that might anger some of the purists but these did not bother me.

Overall

One of my clients swears by this cookbook, which was the main reason I wanted to read and review it. I don’t typically consider recipe books but I was pleasantly surprised by Young’s. It delivers what it promises and does so in a stylish way. The collection of recipes may be used whether one is dieting, bulking or just maintaining their physique.

I've tried about a dozen recipes so far, and they've all turned out well. My personal favorites are coconut chicken curry, white fish with almond and tomato sauce, and "kids" meatloaf (no idea how Young came up with that name). The coconut sorbet dessert was awesome. There's also a coconut chocolate cake I’d really like to try but I'll have to ask someone to make that for me. Baking is just too much for a simpleton like me. But I'll report back once I can bribe someone into baking it.

This book holds even greater value if you're following the paleo diet to a T, which I don't (nor does the author, according to an interview). Want a quick paleo snack? It’s here. Want’s a filling paleo meal that requires little prep time? It’s here. Want to impress someone with an elaborate paleo dinner? It’s here too. But regardless of your diet habits, the recipes in this book will keep you occupied for a long time, adding variety and flavor to your meals.

If anyone already has this book, or buys it, feel free to post your personal favorites in the comments section.

A quick note about paleo diets in general

There’s now research that supports the health benefits of a paleo diet. A recent study* showed participants’ health markers improved when they switched to a paleo diet for ten days. Most people will see benefits in these markers simply by making an effort to eat healthier, in which case the cause would be reducing calorie intake and the resultant weight loss.

This study was of particular note because calorie and macronutrient intake was controlled and set to maintain the weight of participants. The benefits seen – such as lower fasting insulin, improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood lipids – resulted from manipulating quality, not quantity, of foods in the participants’ diet.

Also these results were recorded after merely ten days of following the paleo diet, so they were seen without the confounding factor of weight loss. When it comes to health, the paradigm of "a calorie is a calorie" doesn't ring true. However, it isn't wrong to assume that similar results would have been obtained by following a regular "clean" diet despite what some of the hardcore paleo proponents may tell you.

* Frassetto, et al. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Feb 11.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Best Comment So Far

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This comment deserves a post of it's own. From comments in Randomness.

Mamaelvis -

"Maybe you know all of the following, but just in case it helps you. (It helped me)

Making a tiny insignificant commitment to writing for even 2 focused minutes everyday almost always leads to writing a hell of alot more at a sitting just out of momentum.

Keeping a visible calendar with your successful commitment's to those days reinforces that you are following through on your writing.

The other trick is saying to yourself that this is "only a rough draft" if you are stalling out of wanting that "definitive book" to fall out of you. It usually won't & even if it did nobody needs perfection.

Huge books about diet filled with theory & studies are usually summed up in less then 20 pages.

I think that your strength is that you were not a lean teenage person & you learned how to put yourself into a exceptional condition.

From what I can see from the whole of the internet, right now... you are doing this more successfully then anyone. (On a consistent basis with photo testimonials)

So from my point of view I hope your book will at least touch on the following (like your blog):

Emphasis on your decision not to become psycho about eating.

Your personal story as on the leangains.com with photos of when you were chubby.

Variances in approach with different clients & why.

Documentation & photos from clients plans.

I could give a shit about studies to tell the truth.

The fact that you were fat & leaned out to the level you are now & doing the same helping your clients is amazing. I mean look at how many people fail at getting in shape & you are transforming people on a consistent basis.

What more do you need to write about? Possibly mental techniques for people who can't comply well?

Maybe stuff to build your own reputation to further your professional goals.

Put the book out! In the time you have started talking about intermittent fasting, so many people have jumped on the bandwagon & they really don't have the results you have already documented here.

Swedes are waaaaay to modest & perfectionistic.

C'mon kick some ass. You have an embarrassment of riches already compared to other fitness 'experts'"


My reply -

Mamaelvis,

Thanks for taking the time to write this. Personally, I think this is the best comment on my blog so far.

Some very useful advice in here that I needed to be reminded of. You're right on all accounts regarding book writing and getting it done. I could have had the book out a long time ago if I wasn't so focused on some trivial aspects no one really cares that much about (with regards to studies on the topic). I'm a perfectionist when it comes to this, and it's certainly a double-edged sword in this business. Your post got me thinking. Thanks again.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Magazine Article

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No doubt, the six-meal-a-day-approach so prevalent among fitness professionals and recreational trainees alike can interfere with social life and work.

It's sad considering it doesn't have to be that way. Indeed we ourselves are the creators of all of our troubles and compulsions. But it certainly doesn't help when we are constantly showered with messages concerning the dire consequences of not eating every two to three hours. Nonsense and make believe.

But there is hope. I'm working with an ever increasing amount of competitors who are fed up with the old dogma and time-consuming behavior that tends to come with the territory. It's good to see and experience that more people in this industry are starting to open up their eyes. Role models are needed to create change on a greater scale.

Here's an article about one of my clients. I've translated some parts of it.



"...this summer I adopted an intermittent fasting regimen. It entails two large meals a day, and the approach fits me like hand in glove. As a bonus, I've gradually leaned out as well."

Note that Andreaz is eating two meals most days, while the default approach includes three meals. There are no set rules regarding meal frequency within the 8 hour feeding phase, but other clients tend to prefer three meals (as do I).



"As I received excellent coaching from Martin Berkhan during the pre-contest prep, I was very pleased with my conditioning at the day of the competition."

One thing I do differently with competitors is the pre-contest prep. Specifically the last two weeks, where I think most coaches make things more difficult and painful than what's necessary or optimal.

Andreaz is competing on Saturday, and is going up against guys a lot heavier than him (they cancelled his weight class). Let's hope they judge symmetry and conditioning fairly. That is where he really shines. I've helped Andreaz once before, where he took second place in his class (-70 kg) at the Sweden GP. He would no doubt have taken first, if it weren't for a Dutch (!) wildcard that appeared in the last second.

Here's a sneak peek on his current condition, one week out.



I should also mention that Andreaz is completely natural - and please believe that I wouldn't be telling you that if he wasn't.

Let's all wish Andreaz good luck on Saturday. You can follow his progress on his blog.

By the way, "Making High Frequency Training Work: Part Two" will be up on Monday, at the earliest. That will allow me to evaluate some relevant progress reports/client data being sent to me this weekend.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Randomness

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I rarely have time to keep up with forums and the ongoing discussions these days, but occasionally I'll take an hour or two and lazily browse around for a bit.

Just found this post from a client on bb.com and thought it might be worth sharing.

---

"I just wanted to check into the IF thread and offer a few comments.

I am still on Leangains and working with Martin. I am glad to be down to the 178-180 range now. Started in March at 230+ and my pics start at 196 pounds and my recent profile pic is at 180. I will diet down to about 167-170 or a full six pack/ripped and then start a very slow bulk.

Over the past 7 months, I have had a fantastic experience with this lifestyle and method of eating. I do workout fasted (take caffeine and Xtend on lifting days) and have kept most strength. I have lost a little strength in bench, but when you drop 50 pounds, you cannot expect to keep everything and I am sure I will get it back when I slow bulk. My Deadlifts have gotten better and squats are about the same, too. Of course, bodyweight stuff like chinups are vastly improved as I can now do about 15 or so at bodyweight and 6 with an added 50 pounds, vs. doing maybe 2-3 at bodyweight when I started.

I need to get a substantial amount of protein with this method of eating, and I really enjoy eating lean steak, chicken breast and eggs (mostly whites) on a daily basis. I have stopped taking protein supplements completely and really endorse the whole foods approach, as it helps to satiate me quite a bit more than a protein shake. Fitday.com has been a great help for tracking. I am pretty lazy with carb quality on lifting days and enjoy Cocoa Pebbles with skim milk after many a workout. It doesn't seem to matter much as long as the calories work out.

One really cool thing is that I have not needed to adjust my calories since starting. Granted my weight loss has slowed as I get closer to goal, but compliance is easy and my metabolism is still great. I feel lucky to have found this. Anyone that is interested should give it a shot for a week. At this point, I cannot see myself going away from this method of eating...ever. "

---

I hate to speculate without anything but anecdotes and personal experience to back me up, but the lean mass retention that I've observed with intermittent fasting really stands out. Others, non-clients that have read my material and applied it, also experience this to a much greater degree than with conventional dieting. People are keeping, or even gaining, strength, while dropping significant amounts of fat. I have my theories as to why this might be, but I'll save that for the book.

The post is from the long running IF thread on bodybuilding.com. Can't quite recall if I ever linked it here before, and there is a good reason for that. I would really caution against reading it from the beginning. Trust me, there was a lot of trolling back in 07. But there is some good discussion somewhere in the middle that might make it worthwhile checking out. I think even Alan Aragon made a guest appearance.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Making High Frequency Training Work: Part One

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Updated: Oct 7th, see bottom.

As many of my readers know, I have favored low volume, high intensity training performed relatively sparingly.

At the extreme end of this spectrum is the type of routine I built my foundation on, such as the one I wrote about in The Minimalist. Here, I performed three different sessions over a 10-day cycle. The other regimen, one which I "refined" my foundation on, was built around Reverse Pyramid Training. Workout frequency was higher, typically three sessions over a 7 to 9 day cycle; still a low workout frequency, at least in comparison to some of the more traditional routines for strength and hypertrophy.

Such routines have worked tremendously well for me and my clients, but one should never feel constrained to one approach solely, nor claim the superiority of it, without having thoroughly explored alternatives.

With that in mind, I will focus on high frequency training in the next few posts, starting with this entry. Today I will discuss the reasons I developed a high frequency program, and the results I have seen with my clients and me. In the next part, which will be up in a few days, I will present the actual template in its most basic form and talk about some of the finer points that are the key to making it work.

Mastering Temperance

I am no stranger to higher frequencies of training for muscle hypertrophy and strength, and have had moderate success with them in the past.

For example, using a technique called synaptic facilitation while training for a one-arm chin many years ago, I increased my chin-ups from a measly 8 reps to 20 reps in a relatively short time span, and later, to 5-6 reps with an additional 100 lbs attached around my waist. The template, partially inspired by some of Pavel Tsatsouline's work “Power, had me chinning 3 times per day, 5 times per week in addition to performing weighted chins on the two weight training sessions I did during the week.

However, such success was the exception rather than the norm. On other occasions, while weight training 4 to 6 times per week I would always end up overtrained sooner or later.

This was due to my foolish ignorance of one key factor that needs to be thoroughly controlled when training with high frequency: intensity. (A quick note: intensity is often defined as using heavy weights (85-100% of your one-rep max) but in this case I am referring to the perceived exertion of the set. You might catch me using the term interchangeably, which is why I wanted to make that clear.)

Being a student of Stuart McRobert's workBeyond Brawn(see this post for more, book recommendations at the bottom), I am inclined to exert maximal effort on every set. Almost every set I’ve performed in the gym in the past five years has been taken to failure. Only when convinced that another rep would be impossible to perform without failure, or by severely compromising form, would I rack the weight.

Such high intensity takes a toll on your muscles and central nervous system, which is why it is best used sparingly and in the context of low volume and frequency. Lifts and muscle groups are trained no more than once weekly. I have found this to be a very productive form of training, especially when considering the time invested versus the reward gained.

However, on my past excursions into higher frequencies of training, 4 times per week or more, I would often bring the same balls-to-the-wall-mentality with me. Needless to say, I didn't last long on such a strenuous regimen and I would scurry back to the comfort of my old training regimen. Ironically, I have created many high frequency routines, and successfully coached clients on them. I just never had much success with them in my training (I talked about the paradoxical nature of coaching others and coaching yourself in this post, #2. Being Impatient/doing stupid shit).

In order to make high frequency training work, I would need to master my temperance: the art of holding back. This has been a great challenge, but one I needed to attempt after coming to the realization that I hadn't broken any personal records in the last 18 months. Clearly, going into the gym with the attitude that I need to set a new PR every single workout wasn't working.

In those 18 months , the goals I had set for myself, such as deadlifting 650+ lbs, had gradually faded (I made decent progress up to spring 2008, which is why I'm counting 18, not 21, months). My lifts had reached total stagnation, and even regression, as I settled into lame acceptance and indifference, going to the gym every third or fourth day to do maintenance work.

However, simply embarking on a high frequency routine with the simple strategy of stopping with a few reps left in the tank wouldn't work. Using a much too vague plan contributed to my past failure. I needed to delve into the finer aspects and create a system that had clear guidelines with regards to progression, intensity, volume and other relevant variables. I reviewed both the scientific literature and successful real-world examples, arriving at what I considered to be a basic, workable template in theory. Luckily, it has worked in practice, as was confirmed by my clients’ results.

My clients’ success with this new high frequency template has contributed to reigniting the fire and passion I have for my own training. Most of these clients using the new template are in the same situation I find myself in: muscle and strength gains have decreased to an unbearably slow pace or stagnated completely. The new program has pushed them past their old strength plateaus with a minimal amount of body weight gained (for intermediates and advanced clients I use relative strength gain as a success indicator for lean mass gain – minimizing weight gain is a goal in itself in order to minimize fat gain).

The intermediates I work with have gained muscle and strength at what I consider an impressive rate. These clients start out with a more basic plan than advanced trainees (for example, training 4 times per week instead of 5 times per week).

My clients’ results convinced me to try the high frequency set-up. After barely four weeks, the routine feels great. "Feels great" is a rather vague term to use when evaluating a training template, but the cyclical nature of it is such that I don't expect to set new PRs in several months.

But what I mean by "feels great" is that despite being a 5 times per week setup:

* I am looking forward to each session, and I feel refreshed, pumped and in good spirits when I leave the gym. I almost feel like staying longer and doing more, but fighting that temptation is part of mastering temperance. This is the key to make this routine work. The ego needs to be kept in check and the desire for instant gratification whipped into submission.

* I have no trouble recovering from sessions, despite training muscle groups 2-3 three times weekly, sometimes back to back. For example, biceps are worked indirectly, but extensively, in back movements such as chins. Yet they can be trained directly (curls) on the next day without negative effect. This was impossible in the past, and following a hard chinning session I would need several days before I could curl without the lingering soreness affecting strength output.

(Random note: I never trained biceps for any greater amount of time, yet this muscle group stands out. I attribute that to chins. For biceps development, I am a stern advocate of beginners and intermediates not doing a lot of direct work; effort is much better invested in chins and its variations, such as close-grip chins, rope chins and towel chins.)

* Better conditioning and intra-set recovery. Having trained muscle groups almost exclusively with few sets, high intensity and long rest periods, I have high maximal and relative strength, but comparatively poor work capacity; I needed several minutes between sets to be ready, physically and mentally, for another set. But with the new set-up, I have noted rapid improvements in this area.

This ends part one of this series. As I wrote earlier, I’ll share the basic template for high frequency training in the second part as I am very interested in getting feedback from as many people as possible concerning its effectiveness.


Oct 7th: I'm going to give the template a solid 12 week run myself before putting part two up, rather than extrapolating solely from client data. There are many interesting aspects I want to delve into further, such as determining optimal rest for different lifts at various loads and volumes. I think I may have something great here, and I don't like to half-ass things or rush this. I doubt two parts will be enough to make this justice.

ETA part two: mid-December.




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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