Monday, February 16, 2009

Client Update

Haven't done client updates in a while, so here goes. See all client updates and testimonials on this site by clicking here and here.


John lost significant amounts of body fat and gained strength in 12 weeks.

John, before at 202 lbs

John, after 12 weeks at 184 lbs

"Its wierd, it almost looks like I have gotten bigger since doing this diet with you. Also, in the last few weeks, my arms and shoulders are veinier. I started the diet at 202 and I was benching 225 for sets of 6. At 182, I am doing 245 for sets of 5."

- John


Mary is a work in progress, as I'm prepping her for a competition in April. Here's a few teaser pics.

Mary before, at 149 lbs

Mary after three weeks, at 147 lbs

Mary after 4 weeks, at 146 lbs

Mary's doing a back specialization program, to better balance out her upper body with her lower body. She reports noticeable lat growth, which is awesome considering she's also lost fat.


Robert is another work in progress. So far, he's been doing great, showing rapid fat loss of 36 lbs in 10 week, while simultaneously gaining strength (no newbie gains).

Robert, before at 274 lbs

Robert, after 10 weeks at 238 lbs


56-year old Brad Reid, world record holder in the strict curl (242 lb class, 55-59) and the son of strongman legend Jack Reid, is a fan of Leangains and has been using my approach with great success. Brad is, without a doubt, my strongest client ever. He's currently training for a one arm chin.

Brad playing around with 225 lbs military presses.

On the one arm chin, I can't recall what I sent you but you may recall that my father, Jack Reid, was a cable pulling specialist and he held some records in one arm chinning. Robert L. Jones, in an article in 1939 Strength & Health, mentions him chinning with one arm while holding 50 lbs. in his non-chinning hand. He was about 190 to 200 lbs then at age 20.

- Brad, about his father.

I worked with Brad a while ago and recently touched base with him to hear how he's been doing since then.

"Well, I had become an avid reader of your blog and consulted with you for the "particulars" of a diet regimen to help me along. To me, this was money well-spent.

What I have found is that after coming a bit back off my low bodyweight mark and settling in at around mid 230s, that I was able to drop to 228 to 229 lbs. using the IF techniques you recommended over a matter of a few months. The secret for me to dieting is finding a routine where I eliminate the condition of getting "hungry" or famished between meals, and enter a sort of state of being where I just become "empty." Your IF regimen fits this criterion perfectly. Too, it meets the body's apparent requirement to go from states of being fully sated to slightly and temporarily deprived, but managing it in a manner where full satisfaction can be achieved in the eating window.

I enjoy your IF routine and more important, I can live with it permanently. Of what possible value can any strict diet discipline be to anyone if it can't be maintained, or if its side-effect is a feeling of starvation? These sorts of diets lead to failure and I don't want to waste my time on diet or training ideas I can't sustain."

- Brad


Heidi made very good progress in just 4 weeks - check out the radical improvements in the lower back/glute area. Heidi also increased her strength slightly.

Heidi, back, before at 124 lbs

Heidi, back, after 4 weeks at 120 lbs

Heidi, side, before at 124 lbs

Heidi, side, after 4 weeks at 120 lbs

"I think the waist and backside is remarkable better. I like! I think the diet is great. I'm loosing fat almost without being any hungry, and I've got time to do other things then preparing five meals each day. In the beginning I thought it was a bit much food in each meal, but now it's fine! And I'm always looking forward to the dinner on training days. Mm, potatoes..... :) I have also learned to use vegetables as an own carb-source, according to pasta or rice that I always used before. This is something I will keep on doing, also when I'm done dieting. So that's a new and good experience for me! The training is also fine. I like that it's fairly quick training sessions, according to the West-side template I used before which took much more time. I think your services are good. You are giving good and quick feedbacks! :) "

- Heidi


50-year old Randy came to me with Chrons disease, which warranted a special diet setup with a minimum of starchy carb and a low carb intake in general. I put him on a high-fat diet, which turned out to work great, despite glycogen taxing Muay Thai sessions, and strength training on top of that. After 8 weeks with me, he was leaner, stronger and looked a helluva lot younger to boot.

Randy, before at 179 lbs

Randy, after 8 weeks at 167-169 lbs

I touched base with Randy to hear how he's been doing since (we worked together back in October-December).

"As far as diet, I am continuing the Leangains approach. This is actually very simple for me – I almost never have any cravings for food in the morning and I feel much better sleeping on an empty stomach than eating beforehand. I continue to work out hard with both strength training and muay thai and have lots of energy and feel strong."

- Randy


Got word from one of my old clients about his progress recently.

"The last pics I sent you were taken May 10th of last year. In those pics my waistline circumference measured 32 1/2"" (I think Chris was about 176-177 lbs in the above pic).

"In these new pics my waistline circumference is 32" even at a bodyweight of 178 lbs."

So he reduced his waist size while gaining weight, which indicates lean mass gains and fat loss. I was pleased to hear it. I should note Chris goals are more conditioning related, and not muscle gain per se.

"I began the IF "fat loss" protocol on January 1st, following a great deal of holiday gluttony... my waistline on the morning of that day was 33 1/4" (bodyweight 184 lbs). So I lost 6 pounds, an inch and 1/4 off my waistline in 30 days, and significant bodyfat in just 30 days. My LBM was monitored as per constant progression in my training (consistent strength gains in several lifts), training total body 3 days per week. Two of those sessions would be followed up with about 10 minutes of interval training (i.e., jump rope, sprints, etc.)

I'm very happy with the results. I'm taking a bit of a break from diet (as little as possible) since I will be traveling for a couple of days. But I plan to get back at it and continue another 4 week jaunt, hoping for another significant drop in bodyfat and increased conditioning before my 40th birthday hits this spring."

- Chris


While most people want to lose fat primarily, Tom came to me wanting to put on quality muscle, first and foremost. That turned out to be a great plan, and he actually lost body fat in the process.

While his body weight remained unchanged at 148 lbs, he made the following strength gains in only 4 weeks (no newbie gains).

Deadlift: 3 x 245 3 x 260
Incline Bench: 5 x 120 5 x 145
Chin-Ups: 12 x BW + 25 lbs. 8 x BW + 50 lbs.
Squats: 5 x 165 5 x 210
Dips: 12 x BW + 45 lbs. 10 x BW + 55 lbs.
Pendlay Row: 5 x 95 5 x 135
Incline Press: 5 x 80 5 x 105

Tom, before

Tom, after 4 weeks

"The first thing that I noticed about LeanGains was a dramatic increase in strength. I am not a huge guy and I am not necessarily really strong, but after starting the program, adding weight to the bar seemed a lot easier. My strength took off after about a week, and as long as I stayed on the program, I continued. For example, in 4 weeks, I doubled the weight that I was hanging around my waist for chin-ups and pull-ups, and my arms and lats started to grow as a result. I began to notice that my stamina improved, my muscles grew, and my body began leaning out very noticeably. I loved going from a 6 meal a day program to just 3 meals. I thought I would be starving because I ate 6 meals a day for years, but I felt satiated after meals. Meal preparation was simple and I actually enjoyed what I was eating, especially after workouts. During the fasting period, my mind was more focused and I couldn't wait to get into the gym, which kicked my motivation into overdrive. After just 4 weeks of LeanGains, I had someone comment on my physique and said I looked bigger and more ripped. I tried every program under the sun, and never heard that from anyone. I struggled in the gym for the past few years to get into shape and be healthy. After 4 weeks, Martin taught me more about how to feed my body and lift, than all the reading and researching I have done in the past few years. If you are hesitant to try using a nutritionist or another "bodybuilding program", I can assure you that LeanGains is anything but a risk or another "program". Martin has a wealth of knowledge and the program is tailored to each individual, unlike many other programs I tried. No matter what your goals are, LeanGains will get you there. I can not see ever using any other system again. I would recommend LeanGains to anyone who is ready to see results. After 4 weeks, I am sold for life. Thanks Martin!"

- Tom

(no pics available for the following)


"Hi Martin, I just wanted to give you an update, I am not one for poses but here are some raw numbers. Following your diet plan I was able to enter a competition at 166lb and deadlift 418 (2.5xbw). I have lifted more in the distant past but not at that weight.

I also came first equal in my category.

scroll down to Men's Elite. I followed your diet to the letter but tweaked the training for the event.

Thanks again for your help."

- Suleiman


"I've always been active and played a lot of sports, but family, work and a love for food caused me to gain 80 lbs over a four year time span. Been trying different diets throughout the years, but could never maintain them in the long run. With Martin's help I finally have some hope, having dropped 35 lbs in 8 weeks. I sleep better, look better, aint hungry and have plenty of energy. Just a better person overall, plain and simple"

- Jeff (285 to 250 lbs in 8 weeks)


"Martin taught me that carbs aren't evil and that less sometimes can be more. I can feel my clothes getting looser and I'm improving my performance on the benchmark sessions - while training less than I ever recall doing! I love the Leangains diet, and I love not having to force myself to the gym five times a week anymore. Thanks for straightening me out, and showing me a sane way to train and eat, Martin"

- Tanya, devoted CrossFitter.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Low Carb Talibans

I subscribe to the idea, that the best diet is the one you can maintain in the long run.

For me personally, this entails intermittent fasting and a cyclic approach of higher/lower carbs, plenty of protein and low/moderate fat. My main focus lies on high quality foods, with nutritious and satiating properties, and not discrimination towards a particular macronutrient.

I don't believe there is any magic to be had when one is excluding fat or carbs from their diet. Both have their place. However, there are people that subscribe to a completely different set of opinions.

After watching the documentary Religulous
(melding of "religion" and "ridiculous) yesterday, it dawned upon me how much some religious fundamentalists have in common with certain nutritional fundamentalists. In recent years, I have seen the rise of one group in particular. I prefer to call them the low carb talibans.

When I am using the term 'fundamentalist' here, I am using it to characterize religious advocates that cling to a stubborn, entrenched position that defies reasoned argument or contradictory evidence - I am not talking about religious people in general, and I don't have anything against them.

1. Religious fundamentalists believe in supernatural beings. Low carb talibans believe you can get fat without a positive energy balance, if you eat carbs.

Similar to the anti-fat proponents 15-20 years ago, we now have one group of people blaming one particular macronutrient as the sole reason for why people are getting fatter.

2. Religious fundamentalists base their beliefs on faith, not empirical evidence. Low carb talibans believe that dietary fat is unimportant for the development of obesity; the most jaded lot believe that you can eat an unlimited amount of fat, without weight gain, as long as carbs are excluded from the diet.

The 'rationale' behind this claim, is that the body can’t store fat without insulin (it can). Carbs equals insulin, and that means ditching carbs must mean no fat storage (wrong). They conveniently ignore that

a) eating protein produce insulin
b) fat stores itself with tremendous efficiency without insulin, due to a nifty little thing called acylation-stimulating protein (ASP).

3. Religious fundamentalists believe that forces of evil hide amongst us, trying to lead us into temptation and wrongdoing. Low carb talibans belive that carbs and insulin are to blame for obesity.

We live in an obesogenic environment; we lead sedentary lives and we are surrounded by easily obtainable foods with high energy density. High carb, high fat foods which taste great, and are extremely easy to overconsume. That people gain weight in such a setting is no great mystery, yet the low carbs talibans likes to make it out to be. It is the carbs specifically that made you fat, not that peanut butter jar you went through watching tv last night. Yes, that seems to make sense.

4. Religious fundamentalists believe there is only one way, and all other faiths are heretic. Low carb talibans tries to push their beliefs on others and will seldom accept alternative views.

More than one time, I have seen the talibans make the most ludicrous claims about their approach, often not accepting the fact that some people actually function better on a higher carb approach, and that people involved in anaerobic sports actually need them to perform better.

5. Religious fundamentalists do not accept current ideas of the creation of earth or human evolution, rather they make up their own stories of how we came to be here. Low carb talibans make up their theories regarding human metabolism.

Here's a quick primer on how it works.

Dietary fat is stored easily as body fat without the presence of carbs or insulin.

Fat metabolism increase when fat intake is increased, but it is primarly dietary fats that are burned off, not fat stored in adipose tissue. For the latter to occur, energy balance needs to be negative. Energy can't just disappear and an excess is stored*

When carbs are consumed, metabolism switches to glucose dependence; that is, while carbs do not get converted to fat**, they do inhibit fat metabolism to a point where dietary fats are more readily stored.

One can say that overconsuming dietary fat leads to fat storage through a direct mechanism, while overconsuming carbs leads to fat storage through an indirect mechanism, through blunting of fat metabolism/lipolysis. Either way you cut it, the key point is that energy balance is the main determinant for fat storage, or fat loss.

* carbs can only be converted to fat by a process called de novo lipogenesis (DNL). This metabolic pathway is very ineffective in humans and in studies it only comes into play during massive carbohydrate overfeeding. How come people still got fat from eating all those low fat foods back when low fat was the craze? Well, the body has the ability to upregulate key enzymes involved in the DNL pathway, making carb to fat conversion more efficient. And this occurs on high carb/low fat diets. So, there is no tricking the body from gaining weight during caloric excess by excluding fat or carbs from the diet.

** metabolism does increase a bit when energy consumption is increased; just a few percentages, nothing drastic (called 'luxusconsumption' or adaptve thermogenesis by some scientists). Ironically, this effect is greatest when the extra energy is provided from carbs, not fat.

Why low carb really works

I have extensive experience with all forms of low carb/ketogenic diets. I’ve done them all, the traditional standard ketogenic diet, the cyclical and the targeted ketogenic diet. I've come to the following conclusions:

1. There is a mild hunger blunting effect on ketogenic diets, which may help intially. This has to be weighed against the deprived feeling you get from not consuming carbs and the decrease in performance during weight training. This can be partially amended by doing a cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) or a targeted ketogenic diet (TKD), where you either carb load through the weekend or consume carbs in conjunction with workouts.

2. Making the diet highly restrictive, in terms of completely cutting out one macronutrient, may help with adherance. It certainly takes away the hedonic aspect of eating.

Studies actually show that diets which allow ad libitum intake of protein and fat, usually leads to a spontaenous reduction of calorie intake. Cutting out carbs from the equation may be a sound approach for the average joe, who's idea of carbs are in the form of cereal and white bread. IME, you're less likely to binge on egg omelettes and ham, as opposed to chicken and pasta.

3. When people start eating low carb and lose weight, it is partially because they start eating more protein than on their past (failed) diet approaches. Protein leads to better satiety than any other macronutrient. There's also the issue of being forced to make sound food choices overall, such as increasing veggie intake to make up most of your carb intake in order to stay below the threshold (max 50 g carbs/day usually).

4. And of course, there is also the insulin sensitivity/resistance factor to consider. Some people do in fact feel better on ketogenic/low carb diets, for physiological, not behavioral, reasons. No energy dips, hunger pangs and so forth. ***

*** However, as I see it, people have a tendency to draw the conclusion that they need to follow a low carb approach without having visited the middle road. I've had some clients that were convinced they could only do well on low carbs - and it turned out they did just as well, if not better, when I incorporated veggies, fruit and berries as their main carb source. The middle road, with a minimum of refined carbs, is very workable for most people that label themselves as 'insulin resistant'.

Anyway, rant over.

For an unbiased guide to ketogenic diets, free from voodoo science and 'make believe' physiology, I urge you to check out The Ketogenic Diet, by Lyle McDonald. My review is here.

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

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