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