Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do Raspberries Stunt Muscle Growth? And much more

Some highlights from my twitter between January and April, with additional commentary. I tend to tweet about recent scientific findings and other stuff I find interesting.

Do raspberries stunt muscle growth?

Tweet: "I'm a sucker for raspberries and sometimes eat them by the pound as a treat with cinnamon or cacao. Raspberry ketones may have some interesting effects: 'Anti-obese action of raspberry ketone'. But this study makes me think twice, since it appears raspberry ketones have anti-androgenic effects. Nothing conclusive in live human subjects though."

Comment: "Anti-androgenic effects" means that raspberry ketones (RK) block androgenic receptors, which should have negative implications for muscle growth. Since I eat a lot of raspberries, I decided to look into this.

In the discussion of the full text version of the study it was extrapolated, from rodent and cell culture studies, that the anti-androgenic effects of RK translates to an intake of ~10 mg/kg body weight, or 800 mg for the average male. Considering raspberries by themselves contain about 2-3 mg RK per 100 g dry weight, it would take about 30-40 kg/70-90 lbs of raspberries per day to reach those levels.

Suffice to say, there's no need cut down on your raspberry intake. However, where these findings might be relevant is in the context of RK supplements, which provide anywhere between 100 mg and 500 mg (!) of RK per capsule.

Here's a treat I eat on a daily basis. I empty a pound of frozen raspberries in a bowl, sprinkle them with cinnamon and/or cacao and pour vanilla protein on. Great stuff.

The cortisol paradox

Tweet: "I have a brutal cold. Ever wondered why symptoms are always worse in the evening (runny nose, sneezing etc)? It's due to cortisol. Cortisol peaks in the morning, which has an anti-inflammatory effect. As cortisol goes down in the evening, the inflammatory response goes up - your immune system can 'run wild' again = runny nose, sneezing etc."

Comment: Cortisol gets a bad rep, but much points towards acute elevations being beneficial, as the above example shows, and not detrimental. A low morning peak in cortisol is why some people feel sluggish after waking and short term effects of cortisol administration, via dexemathasone, elevates mood, increases leptin and provides performance enhancing effects (glucocorticoids such as prednisone and dexamethasone are on the World Anti Doping Agency's list of banned substances). The key word here is short-term. Chronically elevated cortisol, by stress or medication, is a another story. All the positive effects are basically reversed (mood is depressed, leptin is decreased, etc). When this happens depends on dose, but studies usually show that these sides occur after 3-4 days of cortisol treatment.

No best time to train?

Tweet: "It's fascinating how some of the best workouts get done under the worst conditions. Mindset plays a much larger role than people realize. I had some killer sessions after 20 hr + fasts, semi-drunk/with a scorching hangover or with barely an hour of sleep. Or like today, after having been out of commission for almost a week due to a cold."

Comment: Well, the tweet pretty much says it all. I've had some crappy workouts under "ideal" conditions and some great ones under the worst possible conditions. And vice versa, of course.

Knowledge-based work and overeating

This was originally a comment on Lyle's article. More specifically this part:

"Moving on to the other topic of the paper we get to KBW, again referring to activities such where you’re sedentary but engaged in large amount of mental activity. The paper mentions work, school, even video games and computer ‘chatting’ (you Facebook people know who you are) and other related activities as potential examples of KBW.

And, as you might expect, while similarly sedentary like sleeping, the impact of KBW on appetite and body weight regulation tend to be rather negative. The brain, unlike skeletal muscle, can’t use fat for fuel and studies have shown that intense thinking can screw blood glucose levels; this is relevant as some work shows that falling or lowered blood glucose can stimulate hunger."

Tweet: "The study you quoted on ad lib feeding and KBW, the exercise used in that study was perceived as a stressor by the women (as shown by higher cortisol levels vs the control condition), and that’s a significant confounder. KBW is not the trigger for overeating, stress is. I don’t think this was made clear enough in the article. Is there a link between non-stressful KBW and higher calorie intakes in a similar fashion? I don’t think so. Could chatting and WOW contribute to overeating in a similar fasion? Perhaps if they are perceived as stressful events."

Comment: My point here was that it's impossible to say that it's KBW per se that predisposes towards overeating, but rather the stress caused by it. It's not likely that unstressful and leisurely KBW would have the same effects on glucose metabolism and appetite.

Juicing with aspirin?

Tweet: "NSAIDs such as aspirin and ibuprofen inhibit adaptations to resistance training when taken prior to the workout...but actually helps if taken AFTER the workout...and quite significantly so vs placebo: 'Timing of ibuprofen use and bone mineral density adaptations to exercise training'. Maybe we'll see people juicing up on aspirin soon"

Comment: An undesirable side-effect of NSAIDs (Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) is inhibition of prostanglandin synthesis, which results in impaired bone formation. Increased bone formation is one of the adaptations to weight training. Needless to say, taking NSAIDs in conjunction with weight training is something you'd want to avoid. However, animal studies have previously shown that this effect only occurs when NSAIDs are taken prior to mechanical loading. The aim with this study was to test whether this was true for humans as well.

The participants in this study were split into three groups and studied for nine months, during which they were weight training three times a week.

IBUP/PLAC: Received 400 mg ibuprofen prior to weight training, and placebo after.

PLAC/PLAC: Received placebo prior and after training.

PLAC/IBUP: Received placebo prior to weight training, and 400 mg ibuprofen after.

The results showed that bone density in IBUP/PLAC decreased by 0.2%. Regular weight training was not sufficient to compensate for the negative effects of consistent ibuprofen intake.

PLAC/PLAC showed a small and predictable increase of 0.4% in bone density.

And here's the kicker: PLAC/IBUP showed an increase of 2.1% in bone density. So post-workout ibuprofen intake basically increased bone formation by 500% compared to placebo, which is pretty crazy.

What's the explanation here? The researchers speculate that ibuprofen may protect against, or dampen, the surge in inflammatory cytokines which occur post-workout. Inflammatory cytokines acutely inhibit bone formation, so NSAIDs could theoretically combat this by anti-inflammatory action.

However, another perspective on this, not mentioned in the paper, is that exposure to inflammotory cytokines, and other metabolic by-products such as free radical formation, is necessary for optimal training adaptation.

Regardless of the precise mechanism behind the effects of NSAIDs on bone formation, it's safe to say that if you need to take them, do it post-workout.

Lifting weights for toning is horseshit

Tweet: "NY Times: Lifting light weights for "toning" is horseshit: The Claim: For Better Muscle Tone, Go Lighter and Repeat. That's what I've been saying for years...but it's good to see the mainstream catching on."

Comment: I've never believed that women's training routines should look much different from men's training routines in terms of the general setup. The only thing I change is expanding the repetition interval.

I typically use a double progression model where the load is increased when x reps are performed. So for a male, I might tell them to increase the weight by 2.5% or 5 lbs when 8 reps are performed. This usually translates to 5 lbs in most movements, except deadlifts and squats, since 5 lbs is the bare minimum in terms of plates available.

For women, an increase of 5 lbs usually translates to an increase in 5% load or more, which results in a drop off of more reps. Let me give you an example.

Male, bench press (rep range 6-8, increase at 8 reps)

200 x 8 to 205 x 7 (+2.5%). Loss of 1 rep, assuming strength is unchanged.

Female, bench press (rep range 6-9, increase at 9 reps)

80 x 9 to 85 x 6-7 (+6.2%). Loss of 2-3 rep, assuming strength is unchanged.

I tend to stick to the 6-8 rep range for most - not all - upper body movements. If I would have used the same rep range for women, they'd sometimes hit 5 reps or less when increasing the load, which is why I expand the range. This is particularly important for dumbbell movements. For example, going from 20 lbs dumbbells to 22 lbs dumbbells would equate a 10% increase in load and the loss of 4 reps or more. In such cases, I use a 6-10 rep range.

You can bet my client Jennifer didn't do any pump-and-tone bullshit in her glute-specialization routine.

Vegetarian diets and muscle growth

Tweet: "Vegetarian diets aren't optimal for muscle growth: see my comment in 'Book Review: Muscle Gaining Secrets'.

This was in response to someone who asked me about data for my claim that vegetarian diets aren't optimal for muscle gains. I brought it up because Ferruggia advocates a vegetarian diet - or so I thought. He actually advocates a vegan diet, which is even worse. Anyway, you can see my response in comments, but the gist of it is this:

Studies have concluded that a protein intake of 2 g/kg body weight is needed to optimize muscle gains. However, these studies are based on non-vegetarian diets. Why is this important? It's not only about total protein intake, it's about the BCAA content of the diet. BCAAs, and particularly leucine, are the amino acids most intimately involved in controlling muscle protein synthesis. BCAA content in relation to total calorie content of different foods:

Whey protein: 25% BCAA

Animal protein: 17-18% BCCA

Egg white protein: 18% BCAA

Soy protein: 15-18% BCAA

Cottage cheese: 10-13% BCAA

Beans and peas: 4-5% BCAA

Nuts: 2% BCAA. Speaking of nuts, they're probably the most overrated food deemed "healthy" by the mainstream. I talked about this in "Scorch through your fat loss plateau".

As you can see, plant protein doesn't rank very high in terms of BCAA content. It's likely that a vegetarian diet containing 2 g/kg protein would have a much lower BCAA content than a 2 g/kg protein non-vegetarian diet. Meaning that, in order to get the same effect, you'd have to eat more total protein to reach the same BCAA content than a non-vegetarian diet. Unless you're planning on consuming tons of soy protein (which might have adverse effects).

Now, for a ovo-lacto vegetarian with a decent base of nutritional knowledge it wouldn't be too hard to get quality protein by adding a lot of cottage cheese, egg protein and even whey protein. The real issue as I see it is mainly with vegans and some vegetarians that don't have a clue about what sources to get quality protein from.

Protein trumps fat for satiety

Tweet: Protein trumps fat for satiety: 'Postprandial ghrelin and PYY responses of male subjects on low carbohydrate meals to varied balancing proportions of proteins and fats'

Nothing new here, just a firm reminder about why I advocate high-protein diets for maintaining low body fat in the long term. It's not that I believe high protein intakes beyond a certain point leads to improved muscle growth, but rather due to the effects on satiety and metabolism (via TEF). Read more here: "Maintaining low body fat".

P.S. I fixed the "Like"-button below, so now it shows you liked the specific post/article and not just my site.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The truth about alcohol, fat loss and muscle growth

I've been getting tons of questions relating to alcohol and fat loss lately. Happens every time summer rolls around. Outdoor parties, clubbing, vacations and the whole shebang. Alcohol is a key ingredient. What people want to know is basically how fattening alcohol is, how it affects protein synthesis, how to make it work with their diet, and what drinks to go for at the club.

I think this is very good topic to cover today, since we're right in the middle of summer and all, because most people involved in the fitness and health game tend to miss out on a lot of fun due to avoiding alcohol. I know a lot of peeps who'd rather stay home and manage their diet than go out and have a few drinks. Sad, really, because it's all for the wrong reasons. I don't blame them though. Read the mags or listen to the "experts" and you'll soon be believing that a few drinks will make your muscles fall off, make you impotent, and leave you with a big gut. It's mostly bullshit, of course. No big surprise when we're dealing with the alarmist fitness mainstream that can't seem to put things in the right perspective if their life depended on it.

This is a definitive primer on the effects of alcohol on all things someone interested in optimizing body composition might be interested in. At the end of this article I'm also going to show you how a hopeless drunk like myself can stay lean while drinking on a regular basis.

C'mere and lemme me tell you my secretz...*hick*

Alcohol and thermogenesis

There's been an ongoing debate for years whether alcohol calories "count" or not. This debate has been spurred on by the fact that drinkers weigh less than non-drinkers and studies showing accelerated weight loss when fat and carbs are exchanged for an equivalent amount of calories from alcohol. The connection between a lower body weight and moderate alcohol consumption is particularly strong among women. In men it's either neutral or weak, but it's there.

How can this be explained, considering that alcohol is a close second to dietary fat in terms of energy density per gram? Not to mention the fact that alcohol is consumed via liquids, which doesn't do much for satiety?

Alcohol is labeled as 7.1 calories per gram, but the real value is more along the lines of 5.7 calories due to the thermic effect of food (TEF) which is 20% of the ingested calories. This makes the TEF of alcohol a close second to protein (20-35% depending on amino acid composition). The heightened thermogenesis resulting from alcohol intake is partly mediated by catecholamines.

Is higher TEF a reasonable explanation for lower body fat percentage in regular drinkers? We need to consider that alcohol does not affect satiety like other nutrients. The disinhibition of impulse control that follows intoxication may also encourage overeating. Ever come home from a party in the middle of the night and downed a box of cereals? That's what I mean.

It's unlikely that the effect of alcohol on body weight in the general population can be attributed solely to the high TEF of alcohol. An alternative explanation is that alcohol consumption decreases food intake in the long term.

Another explanation is that regular alcohol consumption affects nutrient partitioning favorably via improvements in insulin sensitivity.

Alcohol, insulin sensitiviy and health

Moderate alcohol consumption improves insulin sensitivity, lowers triglyceride concentrations and improves glycemic control. Not only in healthy folks, but also in type 2 diabetes. There is no clear consensus on the insulin sensitizing mechanism of alcohol, but one viable explanation may be that alcohol promotes leanness by stimulating AMPK in skeletal muscle. It's not a stretch to assume that this might have favorable effects on nutrient partitioning in the longer term.

If the effect of alcohol consumption on insulin sensitivity doesn't impress you, then consider the fact that studies have consistently shown that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. This can be mainly attributed to a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. However, alcohol also contributes to a healthier and disease-free life by protecting against Alzheimer's disease, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, the common cold, different types of cancers, depression and many other Western diseases. The list goes on and on.

It can almost be said beyond doubt that moderate alcohol consumption is healthier than complete abstinence. With this in mind, it's strange that the fitness and health community shun alcohol. This irrational attitude seems to be grounded in the beliefs that alcohol is fattening and will hamper muscle gains. So let's take a look at that.

Alcohol, hormones and training

You've probably heard that alcohol intake lowers testosterone. While this is true, the actual impact has been widely exaggerated. A three-week study that had men and women consume 30-40 g alcohol per day, showed a 6.8% reduction in testosterone for the men and none for the women at the end of the study-period. That's three beers a day for three weeks and a measly 6.8% reduction in testosterone for the men. What kind of an effect would you think a few beers on an evening once or twice a week would have? Hardly any.

For alcohol to significantly lower testosterone, you need to do some serious drinking. ~120 g alcohol, the equivalent of 10 beers, will lower testosterone by 23% for up to 16 hours after the drinking binge. If you drink so goddamn much that you are admitted to the hospital, you get a similar effect with a reduction of about -20%.

A few studies have looked at alcohol consumption in the post-workout period. One study examined the hormonal response to post-workout alcohol consumption using 70-80 g alcohol, equivalent to 6-7 beers. Talk about "optimizing" nutrient timing. Anyway, despite this hefty post-workout drinking binge, no effect on testosterone was found and only a very modest effect on cortisol was noted. The latter is as expected, considering the effect of alcohol on catecholamines. Citing directly from this paper, this quote sums up the scientific findings regarding the effects of alcohol on testosterone:

"Although the majority of studies involving humans show no ethanol effect on serum luteinizing hormone (LH), some data have demonstrated an increase while others have supported a decrease"

- Koziris LP, et al (2000).

It seems that the fitness mainstream, which has been most adamant about propagating the "alcohol-zaps-testosterone-myth", have cherry-picked a bunch of studies to base their claims on. Well, no big surprise there. We've been through this many times before with meal frequency and countless other diet myths.

When it comes to recovery after strength training, moderate alcohol consumption (60-90 g alcohol) does not accelerate exercise-induced muscle damage or affect muscle strength.

However, the research is a bit mixed on this topic. One study, which used a very brutal regimen of eccentric training only, followed by alcohol intakes in the 80 g range (1 g/kg) noted impaired recovery in the trained muscles. I should note that eccentric training is hard to recover from and the volume used here was pretty crazy.

Another study looked at exhaustive endurance training followed by post-workout alcohol intakes in the 120 g range (1.5 g/kg) and saw significant suppression of testosterone that carried over to the next day.

The common denominator among these two studies is either extremely tough training or unusually high alcohol intakes in the post-workout period. Unless you're in the habit of going bar-hopping after 50 reps of eccentric leg extensions to failure, this stuff does not apply to you. Yet it's studies like these that gets the attention among the alcohol-alarmist fitness crowd.

What about protein synthesis? Strangely enough, the acute effects of alcohol on muscle protein synthesis in normal human subjects are non-existent in the scientific litterature. It has only been studied in chronic alcoholics, which have reduced rates of muscle protein synthesis. Chronic alcoholic myopathy, which causes muscle loss, is one unfortunate side-effect of alcohol abuse. However, this study showed that alcoholics without myopathy had lower body fat percentage and the same amount of lean mass as non-drinkers. So much for the argument that alcohol makes all your muscles fall off.

If you put any stock in rat studies, it's clear that alcohol affects protein synthesis negatively. Then again, results from rat studies are almost never directly applicable to human physiology. There are profound differences in how humans and rodents cope with macronutrients and toxins.

Absolut Turnover is is my favorite drink right now. You need a shot of Absolut Vanilia and one lime wedge dipped in cinnamon and brown sugar. Drink, bite and enjoy.

Alcohol and fat storage

Let's quickly review how nutrients are stored and burned after a mixed meal.

1. Carbs and protein suppress fat oxidation via an elevation in insulin. However, these macronutrients do not contribute to fat synthesis in any meaningful way by themselves.

2. Since fat oxidation is suppressed, dietary fat is stored in fat cells.

3. As the hours go by and insulin drops, fat is released from fat cells. Fat storage is an ongoing process and fatty acids are constantly entering and exiting fat cells throughout the day. Net gain or loss is more or less dictated by calorie input and output.

If we throw alcohol into the mix, it gets immediate priority in the in the substrate hierarchy: alcohol puts the breaks on fat oxidation, but also suppresses carb and protein oxidation.

This makes sense considering that the metabolic by-product of alcohol, acetate, is toxic. Metabolizing it takes precedence over everything else. This quote sums up the metabolic fate of alcohol nicely:

"Ethanol (alcohol) is converted in the liver to acetate; an unknown portion is then activated to acetyl-CoA, but only a small portion is converted to fatty acids.
Most of the acetate is released into the circulation, where it affects peripheral tissue metabolism; adipocyte release of nonesterified fatty acids is decreased and acetate replaces lipid in the fuel mixture."

- Hellerstein MK, et al (1999).

Acetate in itself is an extremely poor precursor for fat synthesis. There's simply no metabolic pathway that can make fat out of alcohol with any meaningful efficiency. Studies on fat synthesis after substantial alcohol intakes are non-existent in humans, but Hellerstein(from quotation) estimated de novo lipogenesis after alcohol consumption to ~3%. Out of the 24 g alcohol consumed in this study, a measly 0.8 g fat was synthesized in the liver.

The effect of alcohol on fat storage is very similar to that of carbs: by suppressing fat oxidation, it enables dietary fats to be stored with ease. However, while conversion of carbs to fat may occur once glycogen stores are saturated, DNL via alcohol consumption seems less likely.


* Moderate alcohol consumption is assocoiated with an abundance of health benefits. The long-term effect on insulin sensitivity and body weight (via insulin or decreased appetite) may be of particular interest to us.

* The thermic effect of alcohol is high and the real caloric value is not 7.1 kcal: it's ~5.6 kcal. However, it's still easy to overconsume calories by drinking. Calorie for calorie, the short-term effect of alcohol on satiety is low. Adding to this, intoxication may also encourage overeating by disinhibition of dietary restraint.

* The negative effects of alcohol on testosterone and recovery has been grossly exaggerated by the fitness mainstream. Excluding very high acute alcohol consumption, or prolonged and daily consumption, the effect is non-significant and unlikely to affect muscle gains or training adaptations negatively.

* The effect of alcohol on muscle protein synthesis is unknown in normal human subjects. It is not unlikely to assume that a negative effect exists, but it is very unlikely that it is of such a profound magnitude that some people would have you believe.

* Alcohol is converted to acetate by the liver. The oxidation of acetate takes precedence over other nutrients and is oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. However, despite being a potent inhibitor of lipolysis, alcohol/acetate alone cannot cause fat gain by itself. It's all the junk people eat in conjunction with alcohol intake that causes fat gain.

How to lose fat or prevent fat gain when drinking

Now that you understand the effect of alcohol on substrate metabolism, it's time for me to reveal how you can make alcohol work for fat loss. Alternatively, how you can drink on a regular basis without any fat gain. Without having to count calories and while drinking as much as you want.

Apply this method exactly as I have laid it out. If you've paid attention, you'll understand the rationale behind it. I've tested this on myself and on numerous clients. Rest assured that I'm not testing out some large-scale bizarre experiment here.

The rules are as follows:

* For this day, restrict your intake of dietary fat to 0.3 g/kg body weight (or as close to this figure as possible).

* Limit carbs to 1.5 g/kg body weight. Get all carbs from veggies and the tag-along carbs in some protein sources. You'll also want to limit carbohydrate-rich alcohol sources such as drinks made with fruit juices and beer. A 33 cl/12 fl oz of beer contains about 12 g carbs, while a regular Cosmopolitan is about 13 g.

* Good choices of alcohol include dry wines which are very low carb, clocking in at about 0.5-1 g per glass (4 fl oz/115ml). Sweet wines are much higher at 4-6 g per glass. Cognac, gin, rum, scotch, tequila, vodka and whiskey are all basically zero carbs. Dry wines and spirits is what you should be drinking, ideally. Take them straight or mixed with diet soda. (No need to be super-neurotic about this stuff. Drinks should be enjoyed after all. Just be aware that there are better and worse choices out there).

* Eat as much protein as you want. Yes, that's right. Ad libitum. Due to the limit on dietary fat, you need to get your protein from lean sources. Protein sources such as low fat cottage cheese, protein powder, chicken, turkey, tuna, pork and egg whites are good sources of protein this day.

* For effective fat loss, this should be limited to one evening per week. Apply the protocol and you will lose fat on a weekly basis as long as your diet is on point for the rest of the week.

Basically, the nutritional strategy I have outlined here is all about focusing on substrates that are least likely to cause net synthesis of fat during hypercaloric conditions. Alcohol and protein, your main macronutrients this day, are extremely poor precursors for de novo lipogenesis. Alcohol suppresses fat oxidation, but by depriving yourself of dietary fat during alcohol consumption, you won't be storing anything. Nor will protein cause any measurable de novo lipogenesis. High protein intake will also compensate for the weak effect of alcohol on satiety and make you less likely to blow your diet when you're drinking.

By the way, a nice bonus after a night of drinking is that it effectively rids you of water retention. You may experience the "whoosh"-effect, which I've talked about in my two-part series about water retention. That in itself can be motivating for folks who've been experiencing a plateau in their weight loss.

Apply this with good judgement and don't go out and do something stupid now. Remember, this a short-term strategy for those that want to be able to drink freely* without significantly impacting fat loss progress or causing unwanted fat gain. It's not something I encourage people to do on a daily basis, but it's one of the strategies that I apply for maintaining low body fat for myself and my clients.

* Now of can always drink in moderation and make sure to not go over your calorie budget for the day. But what fun is there in that? I'd rather cheat the system with the kind metabolic mischief I've layed out above.

Comments gone, here's why

I just switched from blogspot to a custom domain. For some reason all comments made before the switch are gone and the tweet button is reset to zero on all posts. This sucks, but I'm hoping it'll be back to normal in 24-48 hrs (Will it? Let me know if you have any experience with this).

P.S. New article later today.

P.P.S. Fortunately, all comments are now back again.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Leangains Meals

Figured I'd post some meals me and my clients are eating.

Rest day meal

This is a good way to start rest days. I'll usually throw together some fattier cuts of meat and fry it with mushrooms, onion and veggies. Quick, easy and very satiating.

300-400 g ground lamb. I'll use ground beef or ground chicken for variety.
200-300 g mushrooms and onion.
300-400 g veggies. Goes well with broccoli.

I always include some kind of treat afterwards. Cottage cheese and berries is a favourite.

250-500 g cottage cheese. 1-1.5% fat depending on brand.
200-300 g berries. Usually strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.

Pre-workout meal and a treat (Andreaz)

This is what bodybuilding champ Andreaz might be eating as a pre-workout meal.

200-250 g of chicken breast
A baked potato
More potatoes
Some sauce (looks like ajvar)

He tends to eat out a lot so the above is guesswork on my part. Here's a nice little treat he likes to eat:

Protein muffins. Check out the stats on these bastards.

411 kcal
69 g protein
8.8 g fat
19 g carbs

Lots of protein. Ain't bad considering they're supposed to be pretty tasty. By popular demand, here's the recipe:

One whole extra large egg
The egg white from two extra large eggs
250 g low fat cottage cheese
33 g casein protein powder. Chocolate flavored powder was used for these.
One teaspoon bicarbonate
One teaspoon flax seed
Sweetener. 1/2 deciliter, aspartame (Hermesetas). Not the liquid variety. You'll have to play this by ear depending on what sweetener you're using and how sweet you want them to be.

Mix everything together, split it up those muffin-shaped forms, and put it in the oven for 25 minutes at 150 degrees. There you go. Hope I got it right because I can't bake for shit. That's probably a good thing. Otherwise I'd be making cheesecakes all day long.

Post-workout meal and rest day meal

Alex's half-eaten post-workout meal looks like this:

Chicken wok with noodles and veggies, followed by cottage cheese, vanilla yogurt, frozen bananas and strawberries.

Alex treated himself a nice little hamburger...while burning through that last layer of stubborn body fat (Alex was the second guy with stubborn body fat in this article).

Rest day meal (Marjan)

Marjan, who joined me for 4 lbs of meat and a heineken a few weeks ago, is quickly rising through the ranks of meat and cottage cheese mastery. Ever since I taught him to eat and lift like a man, he's been dropping fat and gaining strength like crazy.

300 g beef
750 g cottage cheese
Some ketchup
Tomatoes and cucumbers

PS. If you have you have a favorite meal you like to eat on your Leangains plan, you can send them over and I might include them in future food posts. Just make sure they follow the general guidelines for rest and training day meals, and please include measurements the way I've done here. I'd appreciate your contribution.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Leangains vs The 30-Year Old Crisis

Time for another Leangains success story. I have a whole bunch of these lying around. People keep sending me reports of exceptional results after having implemented my methods. That's just awesome. Check out the free guide to the Leangains approach if you haven't already.

This success story is actually from an old client of mine, but I didn't know that until I decided to touch base a few weeks ago.

Marcus got in contact with me in early 2008 and did a month of consulting, but it wasn't until a year later, as his 30th birthday drew close, he decided to get really serious and fully implement the things I taught him. Check out his results and story below.

How to solve the 30-year old crisis

"I've been training most of my life and when I was younger, staying in shape was easy. Since I stayed active and loved training, I never really had to think much about my diet. As I got older, staying reasonably lean was proving more and more difficult - especially in combination with a sedentary office job.

When I realized that simply lifting weights wasn't enough to stay in shape, I tried moderating my diet through a traditional bodybuilding-diet. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay consistent. I never felt full or satisfied. I was used to eating what I wanted, when I wanted it. It really didn't fit my personal preferences to eat every 2nd-3rd hour, which is what's always preached in the fitness and health mainstream.

Besides the problem of such frequent interruptions, I really hated having to plan the next meal as soon as I was finished with the first. Having to spend so much mental energy thinking and planning my meals didn't appeal to me. It ended in me not recognizing myself in the mirror any longer. I had become FAT."

Weight: 220 lbs and 15-16% body fat (my estimate). This is how Marcus looked when he decided to get serious in January 2009.

"As a consequence of my physical degeneration, training started to become boring. Since training had been one of my biggest sources of joy, everything started to feel like crap. I seriously considered quitting training and accept that I was fat.

Fortunately, I started reading about intermittent fasting and Leangains, which piqued my interest. Since I wanted to take the guesswork out of the equation, I decided to contact Martin Berkhan. That turned out to be a very good move. Leangains is very easy to follow and much more time-efficient than a a "regular" diet.

The results came very quickly. I noticed early that that doing everything exactly as it was laid out for me was all I needed to do in order to get amazing results. It was perfect. Without much effort, it took me three months to get in much better shape than I had been in years.

Since I now knew how easy it was to actually get in shape I decided to use the same program before my 30th birthday. My goal was to get in the best shape ever. Once again I achieved my objective. Hardly ever felt that I was 'dieting'.

In summary, Leangains turned my development from worse to better and best. Thank you Martin for showing how easy it really is! I never thought I could eat myself FULL on hamburgers several days a week and get these kind of results."

- Marcus L

190 lbs and ~ 7% body fat (my estimate), 12 weeks after the first picture. Looking at his training log, his strength remained fully intact. He even gained strength in some movements, which is awesome considering the 20 lbs weight loss (and the issues with strength retention when dropping to single digit body fat percentage).

Great physique. In particular, awesome biceps and lat development. For some reason I keep thinking "'70s ripped." There's a classic look to this physique, reminiscent to the physiques of the golden era of the '60s and '70s.

Latest word from Marcus is that he's currently working on getting in even better shape in 2010 (Leangains style, of course).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

4 lbs of Meat and A Heineken

You might not know this but aside from having attained the highest rank in cheesecake mastery, I am also an ambitious scholar of meat mastery and beermanship. This last weekend, on Midsummer's Eve, I decided it was time to introduce Marjan, an eager Leangains apprentice, to these fine arts. I told him it was time to do 4-lbs-of-meat-and-a-Heineken.

This is one of numerous secrets of my method, previously only revealed to my insiders circle of clients.

Unfortunately our grill was to small to accomodate 4 lbs of meat, so we had to fill up the quota with grilled chicken wings and breasts from the deli.

2 lbs of pork tenderloin. The secret to grilling pork tenderloin is to not cut it up until the very end. That way the juices stay in the meat, which makes it nice and tasty.

The meat ended up just perfect. Very succulent. Goes to show how far you can go with a $3-grill if you have superior skills.

Good stuff. I should note that my personal record is 2.1 kg meat, almost 5 lbs, in one sitting. 4-lbs-of-meat-and-a-Heineken is truly a beginner's course. Much greater challenges lies ahead for young Marjan.

By the way, we made a kick ass sauce. It's on the upper left corner of the table. Just mix cottage cheese and ketchup and there you have it. Goes very well with grilled meat.

Final score

Marjan: 1.5 lbs meat, x bottles of Heineken and half a bottle of wine.

Martin: 2.5 lbs meat, x bottles of Heineken and half a bottle of wine.

As you can see I am the clear winner here. However, one must be patient with the young. Progressive overloading is the key. We ate a bunch of other stuff after this. It's funny how you can be full from a meal...and then, when presented with other food choices, suddenly your appetite comes back with a vengeance.

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.

FeedBurner FeedCount

Google Friend Connect

Join Me on Twitter


Follow Me on Facebook

Recommended Reading

Lame Title, Good Book

Recommended Reading

Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss

Recommended Reading

Covers All Bases

Recommended Reading

Awesome Recipes for The Paleo Diet
Recipes for the Paleo Diet - Two Cookbooks - 120 Recipes Each!>

Recommended Reading

Fat Loss Made Easy

Great Interval Timer

+1 If You Think Leangains is Awesome