Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meal Frequency and Mass Gains

Good article by Lyle.

You can check out the progress I made with 16 hours of fasting and three meals a day here.

I should note that gaining muscle on an intermittent fasting setup is not for everybody. For some people, it's simply burdensome to eat the calories required for growth, in which case splitting meals in a more conventional manner is the better approach.

However, most find they get used to the meal pattern after a few days of adaptation, seen through decreased hunger during the fast and a greater appetite in the post-workout window (where the overfeeding takes place). This adaptation is mediated through the hunger hormone ghrelin, which increases/decreases according to habitual meal patterns.


Sterling said...

There is no doubt about getting used to IF the way that Martin sets it up. I easily go 16 hrs, usually longer before eating. In fact, today I completed a 40-hr fast and had my best back & bi's workout in 2 years. More pull-up reps and heavier weights for all bicep exercises. Not to mention that I've dropped 11 lbs of pure body fat in 5 weeks!

Migue said...

sterling, i guess you eat something before your workouts? because if you didnt, all i can say its good bye muscles

Anonymous said...


AFAIK, Martin does not recommend completely fasted workouts. He either includes a pre-workout meal or a small dose aa's for am sessions. In either case, I doubt your muscles would fall off from working out in the fasted state. I've done so myself numerous times with no ill effects. Protein balance may be negative during the workout, but will turn positive after the workout (when you start eating again).

Migue said...

its still better to eat a pre workout meal, for future protein synthesis, to do a better workout, and to not catabolize absolutely nothing in the workout but, if sterling didnt eat nothing in 40 hours and the do a workout, i am completely sure that he loss muscle in the workout, because the fat in the body cant burn that fast, and without glycogen, the only thing left if the protein in the body and thats pure muscles, thats why martin recommend a pre workout meal, for performance, not catabolize and future protein synthesis.

Anonymous said...

Migue, according to most bodybuilding "experts" you will lose muscle after a mere three hours of no food. The "experts" are obviously wrong about that. What makes you so sure that the "experts" are right about fasted state workouts?

IFNoob said...


Does Omega-3 capsules break the fast?
I begin the morning with some Omega-3, Koffein, Green Tea.


Martin Berkhan said...

Yes. Take your fish oil with the first meal.

Alex said...

Jag har kört IF i en vecka nu och jag gillar resultaten på fatloss och kognition. Jag har inga problem med att äta mycket mat. Jag äter 250g protein från whey plus det jag får från mat vilket kanske är 50-100g mer. Det jag oroar mig för är att 8 timmar är alldeles för kort tid för proteinintaget, att man slösar en stor del av proteinerna. Jag vill gärna fortsätta med IF men jag vill inte kompromissa med muskelbyggandet. Kan du förklara för mig hur ligger till med proteinupptag och sånt. Om vi tar ett extremt exempel: är det INGEN skillnad alls på att äta 300g protein i en måltid, mot att sprida ut det på dygnet som i en klassisk BB-diet?

Alex said...

Jag undrar också vilket protokoll jag ska följa om jag vill träna i fasteperioden? Jag äter mellan 16.00-00.00, och ibland vill jag ju träna tidigare.

Martin Berkhan said...

Alex -


Alex said...

Sorry, mea culpa.

I have done IF for a week now and I like the results in fat loss and mental sharpness. I have no problem eating lots of food in a short timespan. I eat 250g protein from whey plus whatever I get from regular food (maybe 50-100g). I worry that 8 hours is too short for proper amino acid uptake, and that a lot of the proteins will simply be overwhelming to the muscles and be burnt off as glycogen (not sure exactly how it works in the body). I would like to continue with IF but I don't want to compromise my muscle-building. Can you reassure that my concerns are not the case? To take an extreme example: is there NO difference at all in eating say 300g protein in 1 meal/day, as compared to a classic BB spread pattern?

I am also wondering what protocol to follow for training in the fasted period? I eat between 4pm and midnight, and I sometimes do want to train earlier than that.

Martin Berkhan said...


this question comes up from time to time and this is what I said last time around (transcript from audio interview, more on this soon)

Q: Another potential issue is that we've all been taught to believe that if we don't consume protein every 3 hours our muscles are going to fall off. How would you respond to that?

A: "The idea that you have to eat protein every three hrs is pretty crazy considering the rate at which protein is being broken down and absorbed as amino acids in your body.

Fist of all the rate at which amino acids absorption occurs is dependent on the protein source, and what you ate with the protein or whether you already have foods digesting from prior meals. And of course, the amount of protein in each sitting plays a role as well, the simple truth being that a larger amount takes a longer time to be digested and absorbed.

So, in one of my research papers I have a graph which estimates the rate at which amino acid absorption from a few different protein sources occurs when eaten alone, on a fasted stomach wih no added foods.

In there you see whey protein at the very top with 10 grams per hour, casein in the middle at 6 grams per hour and egg protein being the slowest at a little more than 1 gram per hour. As part of a whole food meal, which is more of a reality based scenario for most people, the absorption rates would be slower. There are studies showing that mixed meals containing a very modest 20 grams per protein or so is still releasing amino acids and other nutrients into the blood stream at the 5 hr mark, so that’s the kind of absorption speed we’re dealing with here.

So if you’re mainly eating protein from whole food sources, the belief that you would somehow run out of amino acids to cover your needs at any point during the day is ludicrous. Even during the 16 hrs of fasting on my approach, I think it’s safe to assume that you will have amino acids in your blood stream, considering I recommend having a lot of casein, egg protein or meat with fibrous veggies as part of your final meal before the fast."

as for your second q

"I am also wondering what protocol to follow for training in the fasted period? "

Depends on your goals, training tolerance and a bunch of other factors. Don't ask me for a specific routine. However, my clients are doing brief workouts; focus on compund movements, high intensity, low volume, generally speaking, and I tend to think most people are better off with such setups vs the usual bodybuilding crap. You could also look into some of the various 3-5 x 5 templates out there. Don't forget to take 10 g BCAA/EAA 5-15 mins prior to the session.

Martin Berkhan said...

"is there NO difference at all in eating say 300g protein in 1 meal/day"

1 meal, don't know. There are no studies on such extremes. I recommend 3 meals/8 hrs, not 1 meal.

Alex said...

Ah. The problem is that I am a student with very little money, whey (it's isolate though so it's not total crap) is the only realistic way for me to get my protein. Chicken breast and caseine are too expensive, and red meat is out of the question entirely.

So I think that if your main source of protein is something fast and liquid like I take, then you will probably run into the problem of being amino acid-deprived at some point in the 16 hour period. The question is, is this actually bad and/or significant at all? If so, I might modify the fast a bit by taking in some minimal protein there but nothing else?

As for protocols, I wasn't actually asking for a workout routine, I have one already :) Mostly compound movements like you say. I was actually wondering about pre/post-workout nutrition, specifically whether to take some fast carbs and protein before training for extra performance.

My protein timing thus far has been:

beginning of fast - 100g protein
middle of fast - 50g
end of fast - 100g protein

Plus some added protein from regular food like I said (but I can't really afford a lot of that, alas).

Wysockier och Julianist said...

To clarify: The reason I wrote 1 meal was just for an extreme example, I do eat 3 meals like you say.

Alex said...

Ehm remove that, wrong nick.

To clarify: The reason I wrote 1 meal was just for an extreme example, I do eat 3 meals like you say.

Martin Berkhan said...

"The question is, is this actually bad and/or significant at all?"

If you want me to throw you a study saying it's bad and this and that happens, I don't have one. But it's certainly not something I would recommend doing based on how rapidly whey is digested. Eat eggs, they're cheap.

"If so, I might modify the fast a bit by taking in some minimal protein there but nothing else?"

Sure, you can do and call it what you want, but it won't be fasting.

"I was actually wondering about pre/post-workout nutrition, specifically whether to take some fast carbs and protein before training for extra performance."

High GI carbs is most certainly not needed for that type of training. Carbs in general would depend on the type of training you're doing. Protein, yes, of course.

Alex said...

Thanks for your help!

Alex said...

How much do you usually charge for individual consultations?

Martin Berkhan said...

Drop me an e-mail and I'll tell you.

The Fat Runner said...

Seriously impressive! As someone who has struggled with weight for most of my adult life, I'm always keen to try new approaches!

Anonymous said...

I think it was asked already but what about if you want to work out early in the morning? Would i extend my eating window or just stop eating earlier?

I was going to work out early in the morning say 5 or so. I usually don't go to bed until ten at night.

Would this work alright for someone like me who would like to do IF but wants and sometimes needs to work out early?

Martin Berkhan said...


in such a case I might recommend something like this

pre-wo meal of 10 g BCAA. 5-15 min prior to workout - this is NOT counted towards the feding phase

Say you finish at 6 am

Break fast with your pwo meal at 7 or so (8 hr feeding winow starts with this meal)

OR I might do something different, but I'd rather save that for another time (since I would have to explain a bunch of other stuff/q's that would come from that protocol).

Vadim said...

Hi Martin,

I'm new to your blog but i've been doing intermediate fasting "eat stop eat" style for about two months or so in order to get shredded for the summer with fantastic results (i.e. str maintainance and fat loss, increase speed w/sprints etc...)

Seeing that i don't ever wanna go back to a traditional approach to bodybuilding nutrition and 6 meals a day, i wanna give your system a try for muscle gaining seeing that it worked so well for you and so many others. My question is what is the caloric surplus formula you recommend for muscle and weight gain while keeping fat gain non-existent or to a minimum? Is is different on workout days as opposed to rest days? (and btw i like to do sprints 2times a week on rest days, 3times if im cutting)

Martin Berkhan said...

Depends on your level of developement/training experience. For someone close the their genetic max (see blog post a few weeks back) a very small weekly surplus, higher for newbies and moderate for intermediate.

Pikehunter said...

Hi Martin. As the summer winds down, I am shifting towards a mass phase which I have calculated to require about 3000 cal./day to add muscular weight. However, these caloric guidelines for mass generally assume the traditional "eat-every-three hours-or-my-muscles-are-going-to-fall-off" theory. This being said, with IF, is there really a need to eat this much? How can the body utilize a full, regular days calories (i.e. 3000 cals.) in an 8 hour window?

Martin Berkhan said...

All you need to know is that it can and that's that.

Anonymous said...

I always motivated by you, your thoughts and way of thinking, again, thanks for this nice post.

- Thomas

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

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