Thursday, October 21, 2010

Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked (Major Update Nov 4th)

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Or "Top Ten Diet Myths Debunked". That would have fit almost as well. Ok, so in retrospect, I think I screwed up on the title. Many myths just happened to be connected to intermittent fasting (meal frequency, breakfast skipping, etc.). Well, live and learn.

November 4th Addendum: Section added at the end of the article.

Everyone who learns about nutrition through the usual channels, be it fitness magazines, mainstream diet books and forums, gets cursed with the prevailing belief system of what constitutes a good diet.

Though specific dietary recommendations vary slightly depending on who you listen to, there are many common denominators and "rules" that you are told you must adhere to. Call it broscience, incompetence or ignorance, same thing. We've all been there and we've all followed these rules. Led like sheep, not knowing better. Trusting that those we listen to knew what they were talking about. While these dietary myths run rampant in the bodybuilding and fitness community, you'll find that many are being endlessly propagated in the mainstream as well.

Upon closer scrutiny, the great majority lack scientific basis. They are born out out of half-truths, faulty conclusions drawn from poorly conducted studies or created when a study gets cited out of context.

Sometimes, what's claimed is even in exact opposition to what really occurs at a physiological level. Many people believe that alcohol is fattening, more so than any other macronutrient. Yet, if you look at how inefficiently the body converts ethanol to fat, you'll find that it's completely backwards. I talked about this in "The Truth about Alcohol, Fat Loss and Muscle Growth". Also note how the proposed negative effect of alcohol on muscle growth doesn't even exist in the scientific literature.

You'll see similar examples in this article. For example, in short-term fasting, it's often claimed that metabolic rate slows down - yet looking at the studies, the opposite is true.

The myths I'll debunk today are being kept alive by:

1. Repetition. Repeat something often enough and it becomes the truth. If everyone is saying the same thing, it must be true. No need to look into it and think for yourself. The fact that bodybuilders and fitness celebrities keep propagating these myths doesn't help either. Most people reason that if these people do it, it must be great. Unfortunately, bodybuilders and fitness celebrities might just be one of the last people on earth you should listen to if you want objective and accurate opinions in nutrition.




2. Commercial forces. For example, the supplement industry benefits greatly from people believing that frequent feedings provide a metabolic advantage. People don't have time to eat six cooked meals a day. Instead, they turn to meal replacement powders, shakes and protein bars. The cereal and grain industry benefits by preaching about the virtues of breakfast for weight control, health and fat loss. There's no commercial incentive in telling people that they would do just fine with three squares a day.

3. Few people have the knowledge or interest needed to interpret the scientific evidence and draw their own conclusions. In order to do this you would need an academic background that included critical examination of studies and study methodology as part of the learning process.

However, an academic background, or an extensive education in nutrition or physiology, seems to correlate very poorly with truthfulness and objectivity in the field of dietetics in my experience. The advice and claims I have seen made by many RDs (Registered Dietitians) has been so shamelessly wrong that I put little stock in anything they have to say. The same goes for many "diet gurus" and so-called health experts with a solid list of academic credentials.

That people who should know better keep repeating the same myths is somewhat puzzling and strange. Perhaps they lose interest in keeping up with research. What we know today is a bit different from what we knew twenty years ago after all. Or maybe they're afraid that their credibility would be questioned if they change the advice they have been giving for years. I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it quite a bit. But I digress. Back to the topic.


The top ten fasting myths debunked


The dietary recommendations and advice given in mainstream media and most fora will have you believe that fasting is a hazardous practice. On top of wrecking your metabolism, you should expect ravenous hunger, fat gain, muscle loss, and severe mental impairment. Or so you are told.

Needless to say, people who are introduced to Leangains and the intermittent fasting diet concept have many fears that will make them think twice before embracing it. Fears grounded in years of a dietary indoctrination based on faulty ideas and lies. We've all been there.

I've listed the ten most common fasting and diet myths that exist to make people resistant to intermittent fasting. I've explained why they're wrong and linked out to references and other resources for those who would like to read a more detailed review of the issues. I've also listed their origins, or what I believe to be their origins.

I've dealt with each myth many times before on this site but it would be good to have everything in one place. Even if you've been following me for a while, you'll find some new information here I haven't discussed in the past. It's a long read but it'll be worth your while.


1. Myth: Eat frequently to "stoke the metabolic fire".


Truth

Each time you eat, metabolic rate increases slightly for a few hours. Paradoxically, it takes energy to break down and absorb energy. This is the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF). The amount of energy expended is directly proportional to the amount of calories and nutrients consumed in the meal.

Let's assume that we are measuring TEF during 24 hours in a diet of 2700 kcal with 40% protein, 40% carbohydrate and 20% fat. We run three different trials where the only thing we change is the the meal frequency.

A) Three meals: 900 kcal per meal.

B) Six meals: 450 kcal per meal.

C) Nine meals: 300 kcal per meal.

What we'd find is a different pattern in regards to TEF. Example "A" would yield a larger and long lasting boost in metabolic rate that would gradually taper off until the next meal came around; TEF would show a "peak and valley"-pattern. "C" would yield a very weak but consistent boost in metabolic rate; an even pattern. "B" would be somewhere in between.

However, at the end of the 24-hour period, or as long as it would take to assimilate the nutrients, there would be no difference in TEF. The total amount of energy expended by TEF would be identical in each scenario. Meal frequency does not affect total TEF. You cannot "trick" the body in to burning more or less calories by manipulating meal frequency.

Further reading: I have covered the topic of meal frequency at great length on this site before.

The most extensive review of studies on various meal frequencies and TEF was published in 1997. It looked at many different studies that compared TEF during meal frequencies ranging from 1-17 meals and concluded:

"Studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly-labelled water to assess total 24 h energy expenditure find no difference between nibbling and gorging".

Since then, no studies have refuted this. For a summary of the above cited study, read this research review by Lyle McDonald.

Earlier this year, a new study was published on the topic. As expected, no differences were found between a lower (3 meals) and higher meal (6 meals) frequency. Read this post for my summary of the study. This study garnered some attention in the mass media and it was nice to see the meal frequency myth being debunked in The New York Times.

Origin

Seeing how conclusive and clear research is on the topic of meal frequency, you might wonder why it is that some people, quite often RDs in fact, keep repeating the myth of "stoking the metabolic fire" by eating small meals on a frequent basis. My best guess is that they've somehow misunderstood TEF. After all, they're technically right to say you keep your metabolism humming along by eating frequently. They just missed that critical part where it was explained that TEF is proportional to the calories consumed in each meal.

Another guess is that they base the advice on some epidemiological studies that found an inverse correlation between high meal frequency and body weight in the population. What that means is that researchers may look at the dietary pattern of thousands individuals and find that those who eat more frequently tend to weigh less than those who eat less frequently. It's important to point out that these studies are uncontrolled in terms of calorie intake and are done on Average Joes (i.e. normal people who do not count calories and just eat spontaneously like most people).

There's a saying that goes "correlation does not imply causation" and this warrants further explanation since it explains many other dietary myths and fallacies. Just because there's a connection between low meal frequencies and higher body weights, doesn't mean that low meal frequencies cause weight gain. Those studies likely show that people who tend to eat less frequently have:

* Dysregulated eating patterns; the personality type that skips breakfast in favor of a donut in the car on the way to work, undereat during the day, and overeat in the evening. They tend to be less concerned with health and diet than those who eat more frequently.

* Another feasible explanation for the association between low meal frequencies and higher body weight is that meal skipping is often used as a weight loss strategy. People who are overweight are more likely to be on a diet and eat fewer meals.

The connection between lower meal frequency and higher body weight in the general population, and vice versa, is connected to behavioral patterns - not metabolism.


2. Myth: Eat smaller meals more often for hunger control.


Truth

Given the importance of finding the most favorable meal pattern for hunger and appetite control, there's a surprising scarcity of studies on the topic. The most widely cited study is one where obese males were fed 33% of their daily calorie requirement ("pre-load") in either one single meal or five meals before being allowed to eat ad libitum five hours later (meaning as much as they desired).

A: One single meal was consumed. 5 hours later they were free to eat as much as they desired, "buffet"-style.

B: Same setup as above. However, the single meal was now split into five smaller meals, which were consumed every hour leading up to the ad libitum meal.

The results showed that subjects undergoing "A" ate 27% more calories when given the ad libitum meal. The same setup was used by the same researchers on lean males and showed similar results. However, upon closer scrutiny it's clear how little real world application those results have. The macrocomposition of the pre-load was 70% carbs, 15% fat and 15% protein; given as pasta, ice cream and orange juice. The situation created was highly artificial and abnormal. Who sits around nibbling on pasta and ice cream, sipping orange juice, every hour leading up to a regular meal?

The latest research, performed under conditions that more closely resemble a real-world scenario, shows the opposite result. In this study, three high-protein meals lead to greater fullness and appetite control when compared to six high-protein meals. You can read my summary of the study here: Three Meals Superior for Appetite Control.

There's no doubt that meal frequency is highly individual. However, absolute statements claiming smaller meals are superior for hunger and appetite control are untrue and are based on studies using methods that greatly differed from real-world meal patterns. Current research with a normal meal pattern and protein intakes that are closer to what can be seen in a typical non-retarded diet, suggests superior appetite control when eating fewer and larger meals.


Origin

This myth might have originated from the limited data from studies on meal frequencies and appetite control. It's also likely that it's another case of mistaking correlation for causation from studies and meal frequencies and higher body weights; if people who eat more often weigh less, then it must mean they can control their hunger better, etc.


3. Myth: Eat small meals to keep blood sugar levels under control.


Truth

According to legions of diet and health "experts," eating small meals every so often will help you avoid hunger pangs, provide you with stable energy throughout the day and keep you mentally sharp. Contrary to what many people seem to believe, blood sugar is extremely well-regulated and maintained within a tight range in healthy people. It does not swing wildly up and down like a chimpanzee on meth and it doesn't plummet from going a few hours without food. Or even a full day without food. Or a week without food for that matter.

People seem to believe they will suffer severe hunger and mental impairment from not eating every so often. Consider for a second the evolutionary consequences for survival if this was true. Given that regular periods of fasting, even famine, was a natural part of our past, do you think we'd be here today if we were unable to function when obtaining food was most critical? I have seen healthy young males, bodybuilders nonetheless, complain of lethargy and mental haze if they didn't get to eat for a few hours. It's completely absurd. But I digress...

Maintaining blood sugar is of very high priority and we have developed efficient pathways that will make it happen even under extreme conditions. If you were to fast for 23 hrs and then go for a 90 min run at 70-75% VO2max, your blood sugar after the run would be identical to the same run performed in the fed state. It would take no less than three days or 84 hours of fasting to reach blood sugar levels low enough to affect your mental state; and this is temporary, as your brain adapts to the use of ketones. During 48 hours of fasting, or severe calorie deprivation, blood sugar is maintained within a normal range no measure of cognitive performance is negatively affected.

For more on blood sugar, read my review of Eat Stop Eat Expanded Edition, which includes a relevant excerpt. Also, keep in mind that the above cited studies are all performed under conditions that are much more extreme than the fasting protocol I, or Brad Pilon, recommends.

What about blood sugar and hunger? Blood sugar is one of many short-term feedback mechanisms used to regulate hunger and the notion which exists to say that low blood sugar may cause hunger is correct. Low just means lower range. This is subject to numerous confounders, such as your habitual diet, energy intake and genetics. Most importantly perhaps, it's subject to entrained meal patterns, regulated by ghrelin and other metabolic hormones. In essence, this means that blood sugar follows the meal pattern you are used to. This is relevant for those who fear blood sugar issues and hunger from regular periods of fasting, as it serves to explain why people can easily adapt to regular periods of fasting without negative effects.

Origin

Not sure how people came to believe that skipping a meal would dumb them down. There is some truth to blood sugar and hunger, but this is often taken out of context. There's no need to eat regularly to "maintain" blood sugar as it maintains itself just fine and adapts to whatever meal pattern you choose.


4. Myth: Fasting tricks the body into "starvation mode".


Truth

Efficient adaptation to famine was important for survival during rough times in our evolution. Lowering metabolic rate during starvation allowed us to live longer, increasing the possibility that we might come across something to eat. Starvation literally means starvation. It doesn't mean skipping a meal not eating for 24 hours. Or not eating for three days even. The belief that meal skipping or short-term fasting causes "starvation mode" is so completely ridiculous and absurd that it makes me want to jump out the window.

Looking at the numerous studies I've read, the earliest evidence for lowered metabolic rate in response to fasting occurred after 60 hours (-8% in resting metabolic rate). Other studies show metabolic rate is not impacted until 72-96 hours have passed (George Cahill has contributed a lot on this topic).

Seemingly paradoxical, metabolic rate is actually increased in short-term fasting. For some concrete numbers, studies have shown an increase of 3.6% - 10% after 36-48 hours (Mansell PI, et al, and Zauner C, et al). This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. Epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline/noradrenaline) sharpens the mind and makes us want to move around. Desirable traits that encouraged us to seek for food, or for the hunter to kill his prey, increasing survival. At some point, after several days of no eating, this benefit would confer no benefit to survival and probably would have done more harm than good; instead, an adaptation that favored conservation of energy turned out to be advantageous. Thus metabolic rate is increased in short-term fasting (up to 60 hours).

Again, I have choosen extreme examples to show how absurd the myth of "starvation mode" is - especially when you consider that the exact opposite is true in the context of how the term is thrown around.

Origin

I guess some genius read that fasting or starvation causes metabolic rate to drop and took that to mean that meal skipping, or not eating for a day or two, would cause starvation mode.


5. Myth: Maintain a steady supply of amino acids by eating protein every 2-3 hours. The body can only absorb 30 grams of protein in one sitting.


Truth

Whenever you hear something really crazy you need to ask yourself if it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. It's a great way to quickly determine if something may be valid or if it's more likely a steaming pile of horseshit. This myth is a great example of the latter. Do you think we would be here today if our bodies could only make use of 30 grams of protein per meal?

The simple truth is that more protein just takes a longer time to digest and be utilized. For some concrete numbers, digestion of a standard meal is still incomplete after five hours. Amino acids are still being released into your bloodstream and absorbed into muscles. You are still "anabolic." This is a fairly standard "Average Joe"-meal: 600 kcal, 75 g carbs, 37 g protein and 17 g fat. Best of all? This was after eating pizza, a refined food that should be quickly absorbed relatively speaking.

Think about this for a second. How long do you think a big steak, with double the protein intake of the above example, and a big pile of veggies would last you? More than 10 hours, that's for sure. Meal composition plays an important role in absorption speed, especially when it comes to amino acids. Type of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and prior meals eaten all affect how long you'll have amino acids released and being taken up by tissues after meals.

Origin

I think this "30 grams of protein"-nonsense started to circulate after a classic study from 1997 by Boirie and colleagues. "Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion" was the first study to quantify the absorption rate of whey and casein protein and gave birth to the concept of fast and slow protein. After that, whey protein came to be known for it's ability to rapidly elevate amino acids in the blood stream and casein for it's ability to create a sustained release of amino acids. Whey was anabolic and casein anti-catabolic.

Given that 30 grams of whey protein was absorbed within 3-4 hours, I guess some people believed that meant 30 grams of protein can only be used in one sitting. Or that you had to eat every 3-4 hours to stay "anabolic." Unfortunately, people missed a few facts that made these findings irrelevant to real-world scenarios. First of all, this study looked at the absorption rate of whey protein in the fasted state. On it's own, and with no meals eaten beforehand, 30 grams of whey protein is absorbed within a mere 3-4 hours. With meals eaten earlier in the day, or if you'd consume a whey shake after a meal, absorption would be much slower.

Second of all, whey protein is the fastest protein of all and digests at 10 g/hour. Casein is much slower; in Boirie's study, the casein protein was still being absorbed when they stopped the experiment 7 hours later. Most whole food proteins are absorbed at a rate of 3-6 grams an hour. Add other macronutrients to that and they'll take longer.


One of my clients, showing symptoms of profound catabolism by impaired protein absorption and daily 16 hour periods of fasting.

Further reading:

"Is There a Limit to how Much Protein the Body can Use in a Single Meal?" by Alan Aragon.

What Are Good Sources of Protein? – Speed of Digestion Part 1
What Are Good Sources of Protein? – Speed of Digestion Part 2


6. Myth: Fasting causes muscle loss.


Truth

This myth hinges on people's belief it's important to have a steady stream of amino acids available to not lose muscle. As I explained earlier, protein is absorbed at a very slow rate. After a large high-protein meal, amino acids trickle into your blood stream for several hours.

No studies have looked at this in a context that is relevant to most of us. For example, by examining amino acid appearance in the blood and tissue utilization of amino acids after a large steak, veggies and followed up with some cottage cheese with berries for dessert. That's easily 100 grams of protein and a typical meal for those that follow the Leangains approach. We are left to draw our own conclusions based on what we know; that a modest amount of casein, consumed as a liquid on an empty stomach is still releasing amino acids after 7 hours. With this in mind it's no stretch to assume that 100 grams of protein as part of a mixed meal at the end of the day would still be releasing aminos for 16-24 hours.

Few studies has examined the effects of regular fasting on muscle retention and compared it to a control diet. None of them are relevant to how most people fast and some are marred by flaws in study design and methodology. Like this study which showed increased muscle gain and fat loss, with no weight training or change in calorie intake, just by changing meal frequency. While I would love to cite that study as proof for the benefits of intermittent fasting, body composition was measured by BIA, which is notoriously imprecise.

Only in prolonged fasting does protein catabolism become an issue. This happens when stored liver glycogen becomes depleted. In order to maintain blood glucose, conversion of amino acids into glucose must occur (DNG: de novo glucogenesis). This happens gradually and if amino acids are not available from food, protein must be taken from bodily stores such as muscle. Cahill looked at the contribution of amino acids to DNG after a 100 gram glucose load. He found that amino acids from muscle contributed 50% to glucose maintenance after 16 hours and almost 100% after 28 hours (when stored liver glycogen was fully depleted). Obviously, for someone who eats a high protein meal before fasting, this is a moot point as you will have plenty of aminos available from food during the fast.

Origin

An example of severe exaggeration of physiological and scientific fact, not relevant to anyone who's not undergoing prolonged fasting or starvation.


7. Myth: Skipping breakfast is bad and will make you fat.


Truth

Breakfast skipping is associated with higher body weights in the population. The explanation is similar to that of lower meal frequencies and higher body weights. Breakfast skippers have dysregulated eating habits and show a higher disregard for health. People who skip breakfast are also more likely to be dieting, thus by default they are also likely to be heavier than non-dieters. Keep in mind that most people who resort to breakfast skipping are not the type that sit around and read about nutrition. They are like most people dieting in a haphazard manner. The type to go on a 800 calorie-crash diet and then rebound, gaining all the weight (and then some) back.

Sometimes, an argument is made for eating breakfast as we are more insulin sensitive in the morning. This is true; you are always more insulin sensitive after an overnight fast. Or rather, you are always the most insulin sensitive during the first meal of the day. Insulin sensitivity is increased after glycogen depletion. If you haven't eaten in 8-10 hours, liver glycogen is modestly depleted. This is what increases insulin sensitivity - not some magical time period during the morning hours. Same thing with weight training. Insulin sensitivity is increased as long as muscle glycogen stores aren't full. It doesn't disappear if you omit carbs after your workout.

Origin

First of all, we have the large scale epidemiological studies showing an association with breakfast skipping and higher body weights in the population. One researcher from that study, commenting on the association with breakfast skipping or food choices for breakfast, said:

"These groups appear to represent people 'on the run,' eating only candy or soda, or grabbing a glass of milk or a piece of cheese. Their higher BMI would appear to
support the notion that 'dysregulated' eating patterns are associated with obesity, instead of or in addition to total energy intake per se."

Kellogg's and clueless RDs love to cite them over and over again, so people are lead to believe that breakfast has unique metabolic and health-related benefits. In reality, these studies just show breakfast eaters maintain better dietary habits overall.

Other studies frequently cited claiming that breakfast is beneficial for insulin sensitivity are all marred with methodological flaws and largely uncontrolled in design.

In one widely cited study, subjects were entrusted to eat most meals in free-living conditions. The breakfast skipping group ate more and gained weight, which affected health parameters negatively.

From the abstract: "Reported energy intake was significantly lower in the EB period (P=0.001), and resting energy expenditure did not differ significantly between the 2 periods." EB = eating breakfast. In essence, people who ate breakfast could control their energy intake better for the rest of the day. They didn't gain any weight but the breakfast skipping group did. Fat gain always affects insulin sensitivity and other health parameters negatively. Thus what people took this to mean is that breakfast is healthy and improves insulin sensitivity. Which isn't at all what the study showed.


8. Myth: Fasting increases cortisol.


Truth

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that maintains blood pressure, regulates the immune system and helps break down proteins, glucose and lipids. It's a hormone that's gotten quite a bad rep in the fitness and health community but we have it for a reason. The morning peak in cortisol makes us get out of bed and get going. A blunted morning cortisol peak is associated with lethargy and depression. Cortisol is elevated during exercise, which helps mobilize fats, increase performance and experience euphoria after and during workouts. Trying to suppress acute elevations of cortisol during exercise, or the normal diurnal rhythm, is foolish. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol, resulting from psychological and/or physiological stress, is another thing and unquestionably bad for your health; it increases protein breakdown, appetite and may lead to depression.

Short-term fasting has no effect on average cortisol levels and this is an area that has been extensively studied in the context of Ramadan fasting. Cortisol typically follows a diurnal variation, which means that its levels peak in the morning at around 8 a.m. and decline in the evenings. What changes during Ramadan is simply the cortisol rhythm, average levels across 24 hours remain unchanged.

In one Ramadan study on rugby players, subjects lost fat and retained muscle very well. And they did despite training in a dehydrated state, without pre-workout or post-workout protein intake, and with a lower protein intake overall nonetheless. Quoting directly from the paper:

"Body mass decreased significantly and progressively over the 4-week period; fat was lost, but lean tissue was conserved..."

"...Plasma urea concentrations actually decreased during Ramadan, supporting the view that there was no increase of endogenous protein metabolism to compensate for the decreased protein intake."

In one study on intermittent fasting, the fasting group even saw "significant decrease in concentrations of cortisol." However, this study should be taken with a grain of salt as it had some flaws in study design.

In conclusion, the belief that fasting increases cortisol, which then might cause all kinds of mischief such as muscle loss, has no scientific basis whatsoever.

Origin

Prolonged fasting or severe calorie restriction causes elevated baseline levels of cortisol. This occurs in conjunction with depletion of liver glycogen, as cortisol speeds up DNG, which is necessary to maintain blood sugar in absence of dietary carbs, protein, or stored glycogen. Again, it seems someone looked at what happens during starvation and took that to mean that short-term fasting is bad.


9. Myth: Fasted training sucks. You'll lose muscle and have no strength.


Truth

A large body of research on sports performance during Ramadan concludes that aerobic activities, such as 60 minutes of running, has a small yet significant negative impact on performance. A very large confounder here is dehydration, as Ramadan fasting involves fluid restriction. That said, anaerobic performance, such as weight training, is much less impacted.

However, more relevant and telling studies, which don't involve fluid restriction, show that strength and lower intensity endurance training is unaffected - even after 3.5 days of fasting. New research on fasted training supports this. If you read my review of that study, you'll see that the only parameter the fed group did better on was improvements in V02max, which is likely explained by the fact that the carbs allowed them to train at a higher intensity. However, note the other interesting results obtained in the fasted group. Also note that a review I did of another fasted endurance training study showed no negative effect of fasting on endurance or VO2max (quite the contary in fact). This can be explained by the lower intensity.

In conclusion, training in the fasted state does not affect your performance during weight training, which is what most people reading this are interested in. However, training in a completely fasted state is still not something I recommend for optimal progress. Research is quite clear on the benefits of pre-workout and post-workout protein intake for maximizing protein synthesis. For this reason, I suggest supplementing with 10 g BCAA prior to fasted training.



Another weak and frail physique. No wonder. Andreaz does most of his training fasted. Also worth mentioning, Richard Nikoley trained almost exclusively fasted (and basically doubled his deadlift, while losing fat).

Read more about pre-workout protein and fasted training here: "Pre-workout Protein Boosts Metabolism" and "Fasted Training Boosts Muscle Growth?".

Also read: Early Morning Fasted Training

Specific protocols for fasted training are covered in "The Leangains Guide".

Origin

It's actually intuitive that a big pre-workout meal would help with performance, so it's not surprising that people have their doubts about training on an empty stomach.


10. Myth: "Eat breakfast like a king, lunch a queen, dinner like a pauper."


Truth

Also connected to this saying, is the belief that you should reduce carbs in the evening as they will be less likely to be stored as fat. While this might sound good on paper, there's nothing to support it and a lot that shows it to be wrong.

The strongest argument against this are the numerous studies available on body composition and health after and during Ramadan fasting. This meal pattern of regular nightly feasts has a neutral or positive effect on body fat percentage and other health parameters. This is quite an extreme and telling example. People literally gorge on carbs and treats in the middle of the night to no ill effect. And yet, in the bizarre world of bodybuilding and fitness, people worry whether it's OK to eat 50 grams of carbs in their last meal.

If the scientific data on Ramadan fasting aren't enough, there are plenty of other studies showing no effect on weight loss or weight gain from eating later in the day.

In one study comparing two meal patterns, which involved one group eating more calories earlier in the day and one group eating most calories later in the day, more favorable results were found in the group eating large evening meals. While those who ate more in the AM lost more weight, the extra weight was in the form of muscle mass. The late evening eaters conserved muscle mass better, which resulted in a larger drop in body fat percentage.

Origin

Just like breakfast skipping is associated with higher body weights in the general population, you will find associations with late night eating and higher body weights. If you have been reading this far, you'll understand the logical fallacy of saying that late night eating must cause weight gain based on such studies. People who engage in late night eating, such as snacking in front of the TV, are likely to weigh more than others. It's not the fact that they are eating later in the day that causes weight gain, it's their lifestyle. No controlled studies show larger evening meals affect body composition negatively in comparison to meals eaten earlier in the day.

Sometimes studies on shift workers are cited to claim that late night eating is bad. These are all uncontrolled (in terms of calorie intake) and observational studies confounded by the fact that shift work has an independent and negative effect on some health parameters like glucose tolerance and blood lipids. Keep this in mind. Context is always relevant.

While I normally don't cite studies on animals, Science Daily featured an article dispelling the late-night eating myth based on findings on rhesus monkeys. It's worth citing since monkeys are metabolically closer to humans than rodents.

I should have written this article post a long time ago. Would have saved me tons of time.

If you found this worthwhile reading, I'd appreciate if you could refer those unlucky people, who have been mislead into believing some of the junk that's out there, to this article. Based on my own and others' experiences, these false beliefs lead many into an obsessive dietary pattern, which can do a lot of harm to your physical and psychological well-being. Let's try to put an end to that and save people from such misery.



November 4th Addendum


First of all, I appreciate the support and help with spreading this article around. I’ve received dozens of emails from people who’ve told me that this was a great eye opener for them; a seed for a new way of critical thinking – in place of blind acceptance of these dubious claims that are often made. So for those who have assisted me in the fight against broscience and diet myths, thanks. Good karma will come your way.

As I read through the article I didn’t find anything that needed to be clarified further or worth changing. Well, nothing that would change the conclusions at least. Since I like this stuff I could easily devote a full article to each one of the different myths and delve deeper into the nuances and methodological problems that plague some of the widely cited data from which they are born. But this article is already long enough as it is.

However, I do have a few addendums I’d like to make. I’ve added them here, so those who didn’t read the article when it first appeared have to sift through it again.


1. Myth: Eat frequently to "stoke the metabolic fire".


One of the most ridiculous arguments against a low (or should I say normal?) meal frequency is the one of sumo wrestlers eating habits. Since sumo wrestlers eat two times a day it must be the best way to get fat and exactly what you shouldn’t be doing for fat loss, or so the logic goes. I wouldn’t have blamed anyone for bringing this argument into the discussion 34 years ago – because it was actually what some researchers believed at that time.

The methods and logic used to arrive at such a conclusion was completely retarded. For example, as a “control group” they used healthy Japanese males weighing 105-130 lbs eating three meals a day. Brilliant. It’s fair to say that nutritional science and research wasn't exactly stellar at that time (Ancel Keys anyone?) but this “study” was terrible even by medieval standards. Yes, it must be meal frequency that’s to blame. Never mind the 5000+ calories consumed on a daily basis.

The traditional dish consumed by sumo wrestlers, Chankonabe, is actually not bad at all in terms of calorie density and food composition. Seems it’s even popular among thin Japanese women. However, since Chankonabe is so deeply entrenched into sumo culture, wrestlers will only count a dish served with Chankonabe as a meal. Snacks eaten in between the two daily Chankonabe meals, which are events that are treated like rituals of great importance, simply aren’t considered as meals or reported as such. This quote is pretty telling: “…I eat hamburgers and foods I purchase at convenience stores as snacks.” (From "Sumo meal now what the petite eat.")

I found the tidbit about Chankonabe tradition interesting, but it's also one very big confounder that was not considered in that old worthless study. The reported mean intake of the wrestlers, 5100-5600 kcal is quite a lot for a 230 lb male (average weight in the study,) but considering the daily training sumo wrestlers go through, it’s certainly not a mind boggling amount. It’s safe to say that calorie intake was probably significantly higher given the exclusion of snacks. There was no tracking of the sumo wrestlers diet by the researchers. It's amazing that this study passed its peer review.


5. Myth: Maintain a steady supply of amino acids by eating protein every 2-3 hours. The body can only absorb 30 grams of protein in one sitting.


I forgot to mention one critical study that often comes up in the context of a high meal frequency being beneficial when dieting. In “Effects of meal frequency on body composition during weight control in boxers.” it was found that boxers eating two meals a day on a 1200-calorie diet lost more muscle than the six-meal-group. There are many errors with this conclusion. Lyle McDonald summarized them nicely:

“In this study, boxers were given either 2 or 6 meals per day with identical protein and calories and examined for lean body mass lost; the 2 meal per day group lost more lean body mass (note: both groups lost lean body mass, the 2 meal per day group simply lost more). Aha, higher meal frequency spares lean body mass. Well, not exactly.

In that study, boxers were put on low calories and then an inadequate amount of liquid protein was given to both groups and the meals were divided up into 2 or 6 meals. But the study design was pretty crappy and I want to look at a few reasons why I think that.

First and foremost, a 2 vs. 6 meal per day comparison isn’t realistic. As discussed in The Protein Book, a typical whole food meal will only maintain an anabolic state for 5-6 hours, with only 2 meals per day, that’s simply too long between meals and three vs. six meals would have been far more realistic (I would note that the IF’ing folks are doing just fine not eating for 16 hours per day).

Additionally is the use of a liquid protein that confounds things even more. Liquids digest that much more quickly than solid foods so the study was basically set up to fail for the low meal frequency group. They were given an inadequate amount of rapidly digesting liquid protein too infrequently to spare muscle loss. But what if they had been given sufficient amounts of solid protein (e.g. 1.5 g/lb lean body mass) at those same intervals? The results would have been completely different.

As discussed in The Protein Book in some detail, meal frequency only really matters when protein intake is inadequate in the first place. Under those conditions, a higher meal frequency spares lean body mass. But when protein intake is adequate in the first place (and again that usually means 1.5 g/lb lean body mass for lean dieters), meal frequency makes no difference. And that’s why the boxer study is meaningless so far as I’m concerned. An inadequate amount of liquid protein given twice per day is nothing like how folks should be dieting in the first place.”

From: “Meal Frequency and Mass Gains.”

So in summary, a low calorie intake coupled with an inadequate amount of liquid protein. Liquid protein is rapidly absorbed. This would leave the low meal frequency-group without dietary protein available in between meals, causing DNG, de novo gluconeogenesis, of endogenous protein stores (muscle). The large energy deficit and leanness of the boxers are also factors to consider.

None of this is apparent if you look at the abstract of the study; no protein intake or protein type is mentioned. Details that are critical to know in this context.

I should also point out that I was wrong about the origins of this myth which several people have pointed out. This is what Lyle McDonald wrote in comments:

“The 30 g/meal thing has been around for decades, much older than the 1997 paper. A few gut hunches on where it came from.

1. Marketing: I base this on the fact that the value has changed over the years. When Met-RX sold products with 30 grams protein, 30 g/meal was the cutoff. When they moved to 42 g/meal, 42 grams was the cutoff. Weider probably did it before then.

2. Bodybuilders looking to rationalize their desire to eat lots of mini-meals after the fact. So take an average male bodybuilder, 180 lbs eating 1 g/lb who has decided that 6 meals/day is optimal and....

3. Even there, I think Gironda had written this. It probably came out of some bullshit paper in the 50's that was taken out of context and just got repeated long enough to become dogmatic truth.”

So that’s that.


7. Myth: Skipping breakfast is bad and will make you fat.


A new study on breakfast and health came out a few weeks ago. It brings nothing new to the table; the conclusions drawn are similar to that of older studies that found correlations between body weight and breakfast skipping.

However, since it’s such a beautiful example of everything that is wrong with epidemiology, I will devote a separate post to it, instead of dissecting it in this article, which is long enough as it is. I will have a detailed analysis up soon. Not because I believe that I need to make my point any clearer, but because it will be a lesson in critical thinking.


My biggest frustration


Unfortunately, while this article might have opened a few people’s eyes, I fear that it might be for naught when it comes to the great majority. At least for the mainstream crowd who prefers anecdotes and muscle magazines over science-based articles such as this one. Just have a look at the comments in this thread on comedian Joe Rogan’s forum:

“He 'debunked' those ideas by his own logic and his interpretation of various studies. It wasn't very convincing.”

The only reason it wasn’t convincing enough for this clown was that he could not understand the abstracts my links pointed to. That’s assuming he even took the time to read the article (likelihood: 0.01%).

However, I’m not surprised. The Average Joe (or should I say "Average Bro"?) seems to think everything is up for “interpretation,” which is a load of bullshit. There are objective truths to be found if you look for them. But finding them takes time, requires some effort. Most people shy away from it. Getting spoon-fed is more comfortable. That's OK, because not everyone wants to read some basic nutrition and physiology textbooks. But at least be humble enough to understand that your opinion is not one that you have formed on your own.

As i see it, the problem is twofold in the sense that outliers, the majority of which have severe methodological flaws, often get all of the attention (i.e. the boxers study). The other problem is that many accepted “truths” are based on the conclusions drawn from correlational studies (i.e. meal frequency and breakfast skipping). This is what trickles down and is presented to the mainstream and they swallow it; hook, line, and sinker.

And even then, when the mass media for once debunks a myth, some people just cover their ears and go "lalalala," saying things like:

“I just read it. I'm still not buying it though.”

From the Joe Rogan forum thread, in response to the New York Times article that debunked the meal frequency myth. What a sheep.

There are plenty of more comments along those lines. Makes for some half-decent entertainment. For someone stranded on an abandoned island that is. Note that no one presented evidence that contradicted this article and the conclusions I have presented. Critique is fine but not when it cannot be backed by anything else than gym lore. Fortunately, some people are smarter than that.

This is my biggest frustration with this industry. Those that scream loud enough win - the supplement companies, mass media "health experts" and diet gurus with Magic Pills and Secret Methods to sell.

Someone who is unfamiliar with my background may easily mistake me and my writings for the latter and believe I have presented evidence that would somehow favor my methods, which I have not. This is unfortunate but understandable since almost everyone else in this industry tends to do it. It leads to much confusion as laypersons think everyone is trying to sell them something. For them, finding objective facts is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

But remember: never once have I said, or claimed, that I believe everyone needs to convert to intermittent fasting - or even that it is proven to be superior to a regular healthy diet. The research surrounding intermittent fasting is very interesting but it's too early to draw any definitive conclusions.

I am still of the opinion that the best diet is the one you can stick to in the long term. However, the decision should be based on personal preference and not neurotic adherence to a diet built on faulty and bad science.

201 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   1 – 200 of 201   Newer›   Newest»
Ahmed said...

Great post Martin, definitely gotta send this one around

Noel said...

AWESOME!!!

Thanks Martin, this is why your site is my favorite.

PS. I voted for you here http://www.healthhabits.ca/2010/10/19/favorite-health-fitness-blogger/ :)

Palmer said...

I'm a nutrition student, that has already been skeptical about what my classes are teaching me (I'm mild-paleo). When listening to my professors, I have to grit my teeth and bare it.

How can I develop a critical eye for study design and journal articles? I really need to be able to know what is true, and what I just need to know for the exam. I don't want to be another babbling RD!!!

Mel said...

Martin,

I can relate to your discontent and cynicism towards educators in this area (I am one myself). I wish I could tell you otherwise but there is definitely a kind of "staleness" prevalent among those with impressive credentials. Nutrition is one area that keeps changing. Staying updated with the most current research is not very popular among my peers, it seems.

This was a great article. Even though I do not fast, I find your articles very informative and well written. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Wow.

best diet article ever written? i'll spread this around dude (or should I say BRO lol)

Joe Daniels said...

great writeup. ive been following ori hefmeklers stuff for a while. thank you

DeKay said...

A fantastic article that I immediately shared with my friends. I'd only suggest that you change the title: somebody not interested in fasting would probably skip this article without realizing that it contains excellent information outside of fasting. "Top Ten Nutrition Myths Debunked", or something like that, would be better.

Anonymous said...

Very good Martin, that is what i am going to show to friends that they say 3 meals will slow your metabolism you have to eat breakfast etc..

LayzieBone085 said...

Another great article Martin. Keep up the good work. Next up is the book!

Anonymous said...

Time to publish that book!

Eek said...

Losing fat is relatively simple, not easy, but simple. So simple that people probably dismiss it since it must be difficult to attain the physiques of some of the worlds finest.

Eating every three hours and following the bodybuilding advice is hard and takes dedication. But its an unescessary type of dedication, almost to the point if obsession. And there is a particular quote that is loved to be used by these obsessed beings that I just eont mention here because I'm tired of hearing it.

To me the dedicated person is someone who can cut through the crap, make this type of lifestyle fit their busy lives nut worried about what time their next meal needs to be consumed, and still make consistent gains in their training routine and physique.

Anonymous said...

Intermittent fasting has been a Godsend to my husband who has struggled with his weight over the last 15 years. He has literally gone from 272 lbs to 227 lbs in about 2 1/2 months. He is still losing. I think he hopes to get down to 200, he's pretty large framed. I have been doing it also and am seeing the beginnings of a six pack for the first time in my life after giving birth to 5 children! It is slow going for me because I have less to lose, it is so very simple and mentally fulfilling at the same time!!

Mark Fisher said...

HOLY COW. This article is amazing. I'm definitely toying with the idea of trying IF, and you may have just pushed me over the edge. I'm definitely emailing this article around.

lylemcd said...

The 30 g/meal thing has been around for decades, much older than the 1997 paper. A few gut hunches on where it came from

1. Marketing: I base this on the fact that the value has changed over the years. When Met-RX sold products with 30 grams protien, 30 g/meal was the cutoff. When they moved to 42 g/meal, 42 grams was teh cutoff. Weider probably did it befor then.

2. Bodybuilders looking to rationalizes their desire to eat lots of mini-meals after the fact. So take an average male bodybuilder, 180 lbs eating 1 g/lb who has decided that 6 meals/day is optimal and....

3. Even there, I think gironda had written this. It probably came out of some bullshit paper in the 50's that was taken out of context and just got repeated long enough to become dogmatic truth.

Lyle

Samuel Green said...

Hey Martin,

How do I go about emailing you regarding your services? I'm impressed with the results of your clients and would love to talk about becoming one.

Cheers.

Rikard said...

Excellent!

Randy Villarama said...

martin! i am pretty new to your sight and i must say im impressed. Off topic, i know you like eating your cheesecakes on your birthday or christmas. But during the whole year besides your leangains meals, and eating icecream and cereal during your final cut. Do you have cheatdays every week? or are you more of a cheatmeal guy?

trilce said...

Very good post, the other day my coach told me that my physique had improved somewhat, and I said IF protocol, he said I was crazy, and I talk about almost anything you put in your post. The people of the old school has its own belief.
But the results are obvious IF

Anonymous said...

Great article.

I have a small off topic question "maybe related to Myth9". is it ok to grease the groove for chin ups while fasting ?

murffi said...

I rarely share, but this was worth it!!!

Anonymous said...

Smart guy...look below where it says "CONSULTING REQUESTS". If you cant find a simple link, you probably cant follow a diet program.

Martin, great article! Ive already picked the people who I am going to show the article to. I always love to read the stuff you put out. Keep it up!

Iiro said...

I can't even begin to express how great this post is to sum up everything I've encountered when telling people about the way I eat. I don't really know why I bother, but it seems so absurd that 99% of the answers you'll get are "Fuck you, that's stupid. I know because you're wrong" or something along those lines. We've a saying in Finland though, I'm sure there's something similar to it in english, it goes "No pearls for pigs" or "a silver spoon for a pig." Meaning, of course, if you've a treasure, keep it hidden.

Thank god you didn't follow this rule. I'd be eating 6 meals a day and doing pointless cuts and bulks 'til judgement day.

Leone said...

I'm in awe!

Jeremy said...

Martin a very well written article. Youre knowledge on this stuff is flat out amazing.

Thank you very much
Leangains is RULES

Leo said...

so good. thanks a ton!

Nanok said...

YES!! About damn time someone compiled the golden myths in broscience. Great article Martin. Will be easier to just refer to this when people raise an eyebrow when you try to explain IF and weight training.

But beware, I bet you'll soon have them broscientist from the forum @ bb.com knocking on your door :D!

Anonymous said...

Great blog post!

i think the 30grams of protein myth stems from Vince Gironda, who was obsessed with the bodys ability to process foods. He spoke about this waaay before the study you cited, but even he did not see it as a fixed rule, but just a guideline, which seems to be outdated now.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. By the way, it'd be worth it to check out this month's Atlantic - there's an article about how the accuracy of a lot of medical research is not all it's cracked up to be.

swizz said...

Great stuff

Anonymous said...

Ahhh how I wish this article was written ten years ago...I wasted so much time clinging to these myths and following the rules, totally obsessive. Thank you so much. Truly great article.

yaktipper said...

What a relief. Now I can use the time forcing myself to eat breakfast to read more blogs and trash more myth-based behavior.

Rhys said...

Great post Martin.

I know people always throw random questions at you in the comments sections, and I hate to be one of them, but I have a question . . .

What do you consider to be "lower fat" and "higher fat" intakes on training days and rest days, respectively?

I have been going by Lyle's refeed suggestion of max 50g fat on training days.

Jim said...

Great article! I agree with another post on here - maybe a different title? I didn't think the article would address the "grazing" myth, since I don't really consider it "fasting." Still, excellent content.

Ray Dixon - Pure Spontaneity said...

Great post! I agree with you, you should have written this a long time ago. Thanks for all the insight. I've been IF'ing by skipping breakfast for about 6 months now and it has made a difference. I just have two meals day about 6 hours apart.

Kujo said...

Great article. I plan to start your leangains IF strategy (2 pre-WO meals) for fat loss next week.

I've been eating 3 big meals a day for a while now, and I'll never go back to eating 6+ meals a day.

RobertPaulsen said...

I would say that after you show this to people, the next article to give them would be last one Martin did on fasted training were subjects in the study had miniscule fat gain despite being overfed. That's the article that finally sold me to the idea of IF.


By the way Martin, I just wanted to say thanks for all the work you put into this. Been bulking with IF and fasted training for 3 weeks now and strength has doubled and trippled in almost all exercises.

Eating 1500-2000 cals above matinance everyday and haven't noticed any fat gain. In fact I seem to be leaning out slightly.

Can't tell you enough how enlightening this blog has been and how good it is to finally get away from traditional bodybuilding methods.

morbo said...

Great post Martin, this will be a good reference to refer to, though I doubt I'll pass it on to too many people as explaining the unnecessary complexity of, and flimsy scientific backing for, their particular orthorexia of choice is simply becomes too tiresome for me - better to leave them spinning their wheels and blaming my continued progress on 'genetics' (the great genetics that helped me start off as a 5'10" 240lb untrained fatass).

Also, congratulations to rnikoley for getting his newb strength gains after embracing the leangains protocol! Keep it up, and continue to think critically about how 'superior' rigid adherence the paleo/primal approach to diet and fitness really is, and before you know it you'll find yourself in the midst of intermediate strength levels, all while achieving bodycomp results many consider impossible at your age. Personally I have found that rigid approaches are almost necessary early on to keep on track, but as one becomes more advanced in training and leaner, it is IMHO equally important to reject ortorexia in all its forms, so as to focus energy on the major factors that really matter.

For anyone facing similar issues, I suggest starting with the following articles Martin has written:


http://www.leangains.com/2009/02/low-carb-talibans.html

http://www.leangains.com/2010/01/dirty-vs-clean-dieting-roundtable.html

Karl K said...

I've read somewhere that the six meals a day program was invented in the 50s by some small-time bodybuilder named Vern Bickel, who used it is a short-term diet program.

Whether this is the true originator, or if it's where the idea spread from, I have no idea.

kristoffer said...

I'll just direct people here when they tell me fasting is rubbish!

Great article, thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I'm new to your blog but I think this was the best diet article I've ever come across. Looking forward to checking out your other stuff this weekend. Thanks a ton for this.

Danny said...

Great article, thank you for doing it.

Joanne said...

For the recommendation to supplement with 10g BCAA prior to fasted training, was wondering if it would be OK to sub some cottage cheese for the 10g of BCAA pre-workout? If so, how much cottage cheese.

The section on late night eating was interesting to me because since reading Mastering Leptin I never eat after dinner at 6-7pm but I guess it ties in well when I'm doing IF because I go from then until 1st meal at 11-12pm. Is there any benefit to a snack like cottage cheese before going to sleep?

Anonymous said...

Joanne,

Cottage cheese is a good addition to your last meal because it is predominantly casein protein which is known to absorb more slowly--a benefit for the fasting period, but not imperative.

giulio said...

i want to say sorry for all my collegues... i'm a registred dietitian and i have really never understood why in this profession they ignore some studies and use just the studies that they want... i don't know. since i was studing at university everything is based only on particular studies that reflects always the same rules that they say since decades.... i'm young and i really want to help people to stay healthy... but sometime i feel that follow that direction could be the opposite sometimes... on the other and i'm scared because if i want to try with a patient a different approach like the IF they can bring me to the jail..

Mr_Manhands said...

Awesome article, Martin! A lot of great information in one place. Since I've discovered this site and started practicing intermittent fasting, I've been curious as to how the post-workout meal fits into the plan. If what you say is true and our bodies are not going to just dive into a catabolic state if we miss a meal, wouldn't it be more beneficial to hold off on the post workout meal for a couple of hours to maximize the fat burning process?

DK said...

One thing ive been wondering, that may or may not be a myth, is if our bodies will eventually get used/adapt to this type of eating and eventually plateau...
I have been IFing for 4 months now with amazing results, even starting with a low body fat. I would like to think i can stick to this for the rest of my life, i just hope the benefits will stick around that long as well. Do you think it is beneficial to move back and fourth from a normal eating period to IFing to keep the fire alive and the body from adapting, or is the scientific backing there to just IF continuously forever and countinuosly achieve/keep the same results?

Chris125 said...

I thought the eurphoric feeling was due to dopamine being releases as a means to numb the pain.

Gotta say thought this is one of the most informative sites ive come across, been using your methods of intermmitant fasting (loosely though), and it has helped me in my sport of powerlifting, faster recovery, improved body composition. Eating when hungry etc.

Dave said...

What an awesome post. There is so much knowledge in here that I wish all the mainstream sources understood. Great way to add in the real scientific studies as well. As a big supporter of intermittent fasting, I can only hope that this type of information is widely disseminated and eventually becomes the "go-to" diet for fat loss.

t1ger said...

Great article, Martin!

Ever thought about making a forum?

Timothy said...

I think the part about breakfast/most insulin sensitive after fasting needs to be qualified. We diabetics are very familiar with something called the "dawn phenomenon", where insulin just doesn't work very effectively for the hour before and 3 hours after rising, more or less. All the wakeup hormones, i.e. a cortisol spike, makes us very insulin resistant (not just diabetics), particularly those we'd consider "morning people". After that, sure, then we're most insulin sensitive.
Personally, I need a ton of insulin for just eggs for breakfast, which stinks, and its unpredictable how much I need. This is actually why I IF... I can skip eating when I'm most insulin resistant.

JK said...

Just PRed today. Im a twig at 6' 155lbs, but pulled 275 x 3 today. (Fasted w/ bcaas) I just keep getting stronger. Thanks Martin

Jeromie said...

Martin - I was introduced to your site a while back via a Facebook link. It was interesting, but didn't keep up on it like I do wellness blogs (eating for health and not results related to fitness). I recently came upon your blog again and I have become very interested in it. I recently found your low-carb Taliban post and have to say that it is quite contrary to a lot of things that I've read. I think that's a good thing. If my thoughts aren't challenged, and I don't listen to a contradictory way of doing things (in this case, dieting) then how will I learn and grow? I love the evidence used to support your views and I think I might try your approach. I have been pretty anal about food ingredients (I follow a "primal/paleo" approach), but have never really felt my best (I had initially done a paleo approach nearly 2 years ago, but the lady felt like we couldn't go out any more, so I stopped and started again once she "saw the light" and started following the approach with me). I guess what I want to say is that I appreciate the scientific approach and will be visiting your site a lot more often. I usually only eat lunch and dinner, with a small amount of coconut milk in coffee/tea, but I think paying more attention to macronutrients will help lean me out (I'm about 12% BF on a bioimpedence device). I am also going to be more focused on lifting in hope for some hypertrophy. I think my goal with this comment-rant is to say thanks. I appreciate the information you've made available.

Jeromie
jeromie-sacrifice.blogspot.com

Nick said...

Thanks for an awesome post! I am forwarding this onto several of my clients.

Anonymous said...

Very well done, Martin.

-Alan Aragon

RugbyPete said...

Legendary

Jessica Jane said...

Question regarding blood sugar...

If blood sugar barely fluctuates very little in healthy individuals, how come it is harder for people accustomed to a high(er)-carb diet to IF? When I first went paleo, I experienced horrible migraines following any intense workouts, which I contributed to messed up blood sugar. Being paleo for over a year now, I never experience this sort of thing anymore...

Fasting in general definitely gets easier in time... Do you ever experience any waves of nausea?

Matt said...

Is the guy in the dimly lit picture the same one from Leangains vs the 30 year-old crisis? If so, then holy crap.

Martin Berkhan said...

Hey everyone,

Glad you liked the article and many thanks for sharing it on Twitter, FB, forums, etc. Really appreciate it. Great support.

Just dropping by real quick to tell you that I'm planning to update it within the next few days.

Planning to add another section at the end with some stuff that was mentioned here in comments & on forums, emails, etc. Plus a few other things I wanted to address.

So stay tuned for that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Martin

My favorite website since a while !!

Anonymous said...

I just want to say, for anyone who is thinking about trying Leangains but isn't sure, that intermittent fasting in the 16/8 style that Martin advocates has completely transformed my relationship with food, in a good way.

For me, it works like magic. It's like, as soon as I committed to doing it, I stopped experiencing food cravings. Stopped having self-control problems. I just know what I'm going to eat and when, and that's that.

I've always had a problem with eating for pleasure, eating when I'm bored, but there's just something about the 16/8 protocol that put a stop to that.

Like I said, it is like magic for me. It may not work like that for everybody. But, maybe it will for you, too.

Fredrik Gyllensten said...

GREAT article, Martin!

I'm going to refer people to this whenever I'm talking about fasting and any of the 'myths' show up. I also have to say that Alan's article protein is also great. :-)

Anonymous said...

"as soon as I committed to doing it, I stopped experiencing food cravings. Stopped having self-control problems."

Good to hear anon :) I used to follow the silly 6 meal diet and it caused me to develop a terrible binge eating disorder where i'd polish off over 10,000 calories in one sitting, most of the time eating til it hurt and i couldnt move.

But once I found leangains, everything somehow changed. I've almost reached my goal in leanness, and like you, i never experience unnecessary food cravings like i used to.

Although, since I've gotten so lean, I now do very structured and controlled refeeds after I train. which has really helped to keep me chugging and happy!

Thanks Martin, for changing my life.

Marcus Lange said...

Matt:
"Is the guy in the dimly lit picture the same one from Leangains vs the 30 year-old crisis? If so, then holy crap."

Yepp, that's me. =)

matt said...

Yes the guy in the first photo shot, from what i can tell, has a pretty much perfect physique, maybe even better then Martin...

Matt said...

@Marcus Lange

Seems you've gotten leaner and quite a bit bigger too.

Great job man!

Anonymous said...

Far out, marcus is a unit. Looks even better than in the '30 year crisis'.

My hat's off to both him and martin

Anonymous said...

Who is everybody referring to with this 30 year old crisis?

Only article I see is 40 year old crisis . . .

Anonymous said...

Try clicking 'older posts'.

Or alternatively go to clients -> success stories.

A little insight into the writer of 'The Dietary Edge'... said...

Superb Article.

As a Dietitian, it frustrates me that I still get health professionals (even Dietitians) touting the same 'myths' to patients over and over. No wonder they're confused and not in the shape they'd like to be! My view seems to be the same as yours, Evidence rules over Myths.

Many thanks and I hope many people read this and take it onboard into their training.

Yours in Health,

RIck Miller

NHS Specialist Obesity Management DIetitian

HPC Registration Number - DT25651

Andrew said...

HI Mark
Brilliant stuff! I run a training business in Canada called Freedom Fitness and (like you) I try to free people from all the "BS" in the industry and save them time and money by debunking such BS as eating 6-8 small meals a day or using special "snake juice" for "para-workout nutrition." Anyway I am wondering what you think of the brand BIOTEST and their website TNATION who just came out with the 36 (peptopro/leucine) hour fast based on IF. They seem to be operating on the fear that people will go catabolic in 36 hours with out their custom mix. You seem to have debunked that myth but just looking for your thoughts!

Ricardo E. C. Alves said...

Great guide Martin, eating would be so much better if these myths were debunked from people minds once for all.

I was doing IF by myself for the last 4 months, without following any specific nutritional protocol (didn~t know any of them). Just came across the IF concepts (yours, Pilon, Hofmekler, etc) recently. Re-read your blog thousand times, and decided to give LeanGains a shot, since it looks like the most complete and researched one.

I'd like to congratulate on your work here, it's nice to see someone that doesn't take bullshit for granted and CARE to show the readers why you have that opinion.

I'd like to know your take on nutrients and food choices from a bulking and cutting perspective. I'm mildly paleo, and I have a hard time to put on some weight. I'm in a similar frame that you had during your modelling days, with slightly more BF. Do you think it's just a matter of calories in during the feeding window, or do you have another take on it?

Thanks for all the help!

Lee said...

@ Marcus Lange:

Great physique! Any specifics on the macro composition of your diet, the sort of foods/ supplements you favour? And your training?

Cole said...

Martin, This question has bothered me for a while. How can you eat the correct amount of foods getting your cal. count to where it needs to be everyday without literally eating the same meals everyday? Because I know it's much more healthy to keep variety in your diet.

(for ex i am trying to loose weight on want to keep my calories at "x" but how do I do so while keeping variety?)

Anonymous said...

@cole: Are you serious?

Just adjust the portion size of whatever it is to fit the macros. For eg, you may need 200g of ground beef to hit 40g of protein, but only 2scoops of protein powder and round it goes

Anonymous said...

Cole,

Fitday.com

Michael Watts said...

Martin,

I recently started implementing the leangains philosophy and am really excited about the potential. You're a great writer and you have an amazing ability to explain things clearly. I also love that you emphasize backing claims with scientific research.


My question is this: have you had clients complain of constipation at the beginning of starting the program? If so, has the issue eventually regulated itself or should I be seeking an external solution?

Thanks.

Eric said...

Hey Martin, what do you consider too high of fat intake on a rest day?

If I'm restricting carbs to fibrous vegetables, and keeping protein intake high, as long as I'm eating at a deficit, high fat intake shouldn't hinder fat loss correct?

Cole said...

I think i was misunderstood possibly. Lets say I need "x" amount of calories. I want to intake certain percentages of x between carbs, fat, and protein..I want to know how to varietize my foods, while maintain these percentages approximately while staying at my target calorie.

Obviously two scoops of protein could be the same amount of protein as 200g of ground beef, but ground beef has much more calories. So should i just go around with a book and record everything I eat and try to eat accordingly to what I need today?

Maybe I was just looking for a way too complicated answer that doesnt exist.

Anonymous said...

Cole,
Let's say you need 300 calories.

1 cup 2% cottage cheese + 140g frozen berries ~300 calories

200g lean ground turkey (93/7) + 1 cup broccoli ~300 calories

And once again, track your food intake on fitday.com to get an idea of your macro ratios.

Jade said...

To Martin or anyone on here who can answer, I think this IF stuff is absolutely great. Is there anything wrong with doing it if i'm just trying to maintain my weight, get stronger, bigger, when i am inseason with my sports? With the way my school works, it would work out nice. The key question here is being inseason, I want to make sure that because of that something may change, or IF may not be ideal.

Anonymous said...

Link to swedish tabloid article:

http://www.expressen.se/halsa/1.2196459/marlene-och-martin-gick-ned-76-kilo-tillsammans#comments

Humbug if you ask me!

Thank you M.B for the best site about health there is right now!

Anonymous said...

Jade,

looks like you answered your own question...or you just have terrible english and never really formulated a cohesive question.

ViMulti said...

Amazing, Amazing, Amazing article! So much information, totally agree with your angle - One thing you could also touch upon is the trends with Celeb Cleanses

Great Job!

Matt said...

Martin,

I can't remember how I found your site, but wow I'm glad I did. I am a victim to almost all these 'myths' and what attracted me so much to your methods was the fact that you and me went under almost identical transformations! I started out as fat, then loosing the weight (in an unhealthy and crude fashion) to only become skinny (too skinny!), and am now currently trying to put on some muscle while trying to keep myself lean. I am amazed and so happy I found this, I've been on the diet for a couple weeks now and I love it. I just wanted to let you know that you've definitely changed my path from the 'bodybuilding' p.o.v. to leangains!
P.S. - I love the fact of what I can eat and when I can eat it, the six meals were killing me, too.

~Matt S.

Esther said...

Martin,

I'm new to this and JUST started on 11/1. My question is regarding the amount of BCAAs that I should take. I normally do early workouts, so I was doing 10g x 3 of BCAAs (total 30g) that you recommended. But, I was curious if this was a dosage for a man or someone larger. I'm about 130lbs and female, so wanted to be sure I wasn't over-doing the BCAAs.

Let me know if the 30g divided into 3 separate "timings" is still ok or if I should scale that down in any way.

Thanks,
~E

Karl said...

So... How about that update? ;)

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, Keep up the good work Martin!!!

I've started IF couple weeks ago and I love it, I'm gonna stick with it for sure.

Blue said...

Thanks for the link to the Rogan thread, 3.2 minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

jonparker said...

Over the few weeks or so (since Tim Ferris tweeted one of your posts) I've been an avid follower and the main thing you've taught me is that getting/staying in shape is more about my behaviour than I ever realised

Sure, low-carb dieting worked really well for me in the past... not because there is anything magic about it though, but simply because it was a 'template' that allowed me to get to adequate, necessary nutrition and maintain a calorie deficit.

I'm LOVING IF now. I feel like I have more energy than ever, I'm enjoying -- guilt free -- eating more of the foods that I used to shy away from, and I know for a fact that this will make it very easy for me stick with this long term.

Thanks again for opening my eyes!

Alexander said...

Thanks Martin for the updated version also!

Even this video is in norwegian i guess u understand :=)
She is a professor in nutrition and STILL thinks going more than 3-4 hours without food makes the blood sugar drop................

http://www.dn.no/dnaktiv/article2011871.ece


Cheers,
Alex

Powerflirter said...

Hey Martin, I think you didn't get my last comment for some reason.
If someone performs GPP/conditioning (which involves speed weights and 20-30 min cardio, may be LISS or HIIT) on off days (because im a powerlifter) when should it be done? Inside the feeding time, before, after?
Cheers!

Anonymous said...

I guess this isn't really relevant to this particular discussion but I wanted an opportunity to ask it. Would it be more or less beneficial compared to a 16/8 schedule to eat all of your calories for your lifting day and the rest day after ALL on the lifting day and then fast that night through the next day and night?

I hope this question actually makes sense the way I ask it. Assuming lifting every other day, you would be eating only every other day but still consuming the same number of calories you would if you were to follow Martin's 16/8 schedule.

CapitalJ said...

Excellent.

I've showed numerous people this article. It opened the eyes of some but the majority said: "Why does he think he knows better than all the expert nutritionists out there?"

First of all nobody can name a single one of those experts here in Iceland. Or even their claims.

So basically: Someone told them something = It came from an expert and is fact. All the advice on health comes from doctors in this country, damn.

michael_allen_bond said...

Another awesome article, don't ever let em get you down, and where's that book?? :p

josh said...

1) I wouldn't worry about what people are posting on Rogan's forum. I mean, did you see their avatars? Usernames? Signatures? A clown who says you're wrong is still a clown.

2) Have any studies compared IF to the 12-, 6-, and 3-regularly-spaced-meals practice? There's a difference between each practice that the NYT didn't note (admittedly, the point of the article was not the benefits of IF).

IF makes SO much sense. I have literally tried every kind of eating strategy since I was 13 years old. IF is the ONLY way I have ever found that would keep me from eventually overeating, would allow me to take time off from exercise, and forgave me for the occasional indulgence.

Personally, I follow your guidelines for 5 days per week and use Pilon's ESE 24-hours method two days per week. I have been doing very well with this method.

My only complaint: I wish you had time to post every day! And I wish you'd write a book with specific guidelines, etc.

Tim said...

Another amazing article, Martin. I think this is some of your best work yet.

I truly and sincerely appreciate all the work you put into this. IMO yours is the best blog by far (and I read quite a few) and the one I look most forward to reading new posts on.

Tim

P.S. Not that you need to hear this again but I'm *really* itching for that book of yours;)

Anonymous said...

^ what he said

keep up the great work

Dameem said...

I to would like to see a separate thread about early morning breakfast.
Just yesterday I was talking with my brother about fasting. He does something which you can kinda call fasting, but he has to eat breakfast. After a long discussion about how breakfast isn't that important and actually is not needed for him to function properly in the morning along with how it really doesn't have any negative effect on your health, he just wouldn't budge.
He "kinda" agreed that it might have a temporary positive effect for your body in a short period of time, it's just not optimal for the long run.
People have various ways of fasting, it's just most can't go over the fact that skipping breakfast is actually a positive thing for your body.

Metabolic Alchemy said...

Martin, I love your work. But I am curious about the fasted training comments. I think in someone who is well above average in terms of body composition this might not be difficult to achieve (great workout fasted) but I gotta tell you - when I was overweight and I didn't eat something prior to lifting I was just a shakey sweaty mess that couldn't lift even my 80% 1RM. I felt sick, literally shaking, and couldn't finish a workout strong at all. I'd leave wiped out, almost flu-like.

Now I eat an apple with natty peanut butter about an hour before my workout and I seem to get through it just in time to start feeling lousy at the end of the workout rather than right in the middle of it.

I am finding the better shape I get in the more I can tolerate fasted training so I wonder if this is an adaptation that occurs when someone is physically fit and lean enough to restore their body's natural state.

IOW, you mention a lot of studies on here about training and appetite and blood sugar on healthy people, BUT are obese people healthy? I can attest to the fact that when I was 50 pounds overweight I would get woozy if I didn't eat every couple of hours. My leptin and insulin must have been all over the place. As I got down to about 10% I found that I could magically skip breakfast and wait until lunch to eat and that was a huge breakthrough.

It's a dangerous step to take when you write an article and begin it with criticizing the "my buddy says it and he's ripped" mindset and then halfway down the page make mention of two people who are very athletic and have success with your philosophy and then try to presuppose the results will be the same for anyone.

To be clear: I really do agree with a lot of your observations. Solid. I just think it's important to make sure we haven't left any stones unturned and that we keep in mind our audience might be very unadapted (and in some instances, "diseased" due to poor diet).

John said...

Another great article, Martin! Thanks for the update, that bit about sumo wrestlers was interesting I've heard this so many times, can't wait to set people straight next time someone brings it up.

Dan Go said...

Awesome update. Too many "forum junkies" are quick to dismiss something without even looking at the facts.

They just see "Fasting" or "3 Meals a day" and automatically go on an holier than thou stance behind the protection of their laptop and forum moniker "Ripped Brotastic69".

I'm not saying that 3 meals a day is better than 5 meals a day...I'm here to say for me 3 meals a day is IN EVERY WAY SUPERIOR to 5 meals a day.

Just the mental freedom I have day to day is enough for me. I don't have to worry about waking up and thinking, "Oh shit...I need to eat between 1-2 hours of waking or my metabolism is gonna implode on itself."

That in itself is a godsend.

Martin Berkhan said...

Metabolic Alchemy,

I never said everyone should do, or can do, fasted training. As with hunger, people vary in terms of what they do better or worse on.

However, many wrongfully assume that their strength goes down the drain if they don't have a pre-workout meal, and this is clearly not the case - as evidenced by research and experience.

(There are countless examples of people on this site who had serious doubts about fasted training before having tried it, then became fasted training converts, etc.)

Martin Berkhan said...

Dan,

"I'm not saying that 3 meals a day is better than 5 meals a day...I'm here to say for me 3 meals a day is IN EVERY WAY SUPERIOR to 5 meals a day."

Keyword: "for me". That's all that matters. The problem is, as I have pointed out, many are afraid to experiment and find the right approach due to these unfounded fears (i.e. afraid to skip meals, etc.) that something bad will happen. That's what I did for years.

It wasn't until I finally decided I didn't have anything left to lose that I was willing to experiment. Had I known that most of my beliefs were bullshit, I wouldn't have wasted years spinning my wheels on 6-meals-a-day-diets.


Thanks for the positive feedback, guys. Glad you liked the article.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for the next post Martin. Always educational and definitely a very interesting perspective. Trying out your program a little and can wait to hear from you. As a question...do you any natural suggestions for replacing having to take BCAAs or creatine pre workout ( I know you say it isn't necessary) but perhaps a type of whole food that will provide some of the benefits of the BCAA. I have been taking xtend before workouts...but I tend to try to shy away from ergogenic supplements. I am also gaining mass but wanting to keep the fat to a minimum ( I have some stubborn fat same as the example you have given in your other article).
On another note, for me this article has put to rest any doubts I had about this way of eating and the preservence mecanisms of the human body. I feel it is absolutely retarded how industries tend to suggest that the body is some frail organism not capable of surviving without xyz. 30grams of protein every 3 hours or your muscles will fall off (puhleass). Take ergotestostobooter, your natural manly hood is going down the toilette. We have become a brainwashed society thinking that we can outsmart our bodies with supplements and fake foods. The greatest knowledge with can ever come across is not what will fight the body into submission but support it into thriving. I believe intermittent fasting taps into the bodies internal mechanisms. I can say one thing for sure...my digestion has never been better and normally after such huge meals it would be horrible. It would be interesting to see a study down on how much out eating habit and non use of fasting has impacted our rate of disease. Perhaps a break from constantly digesting is just what the doctor ordered.

Martin said...

I must admit that for the first time it was ridiculous - "skipping breakfast, not eat small portions every 3-4 hours." That wasn't the stuff I was learning in medical school. And also every fitness magazine is still shouting exactly the opposite.

But If you look deeply in this issue, it makes perfect sense. For average guys only calories matters!!! That is the basic and many people just cram. They eat more than they think. Why? Tastes and feeling hungry. IF or specifically Leangains approach this releases because you "have to" control your calories only 2 or 3 times per day and during fasting you just simply do not eat, so there is no space for cramming. For me personally the biggest surprise was that I am not really hugry until noon.

So, guys, calories matters , otherwise you can experiment :-) I have tried leangains approach and fits me very well . I do believe in Martin's work and I am pretty sure that is based on science and many, many studies he had to read. I am looking forward to your book ....

Michael said...

The hard part about the breakfast-skipping proposal is that it is difficult to generalize. Some people do feel lousy and function poorly without breakfast. Others thrive. This leaves the only sound conclusion being to try it for oneself, knowing that someone else's experience may or may not mean anything regarding yours.

Chros said...

Wait a minute...Joe Rogan has a message board? LOL what a has-been.

Paul said...

Fantastic article, I've seen these myths discussed before but never in such depth and all in one place. A great reference point for myself and others.

Cavegirl said...

Excellent piece. I was sent over from MDA. I share your frustration entirely. My eyes were opened by reading Taubes (Diet Delusion/Good Calories, Bad Calories) a year ago.

Being presented with a whole raft of studies and beginning to understand who funded them, the context of them and why some stuff is published and other struggles I'm uber-critical now of everything I read.

I agree with your base thought 'does x, y, z fit in the context of evolution' if so I read further, if not ... well ... into the trash it goes.

I'm not sure how massive bodybuilding fits to be honest I have to say, but each to his own I guess :-) honed/ripped I get, but mega muscles I don't!

Ben Nowlan said...

Must say this is a cracker article. I pride myself on being informed but you have shed some much needed light on things I have been unsure of for sometime.

Kalle said...

What is your opinion on longer fast than 16hours ? My work-out-chedule looks like this:
Mon->wednesday: hard workouts, +calories
thursday cardio
friday rest
saturnday rest
sunday cardio

I eat in 16 to 24 window normally.
Would it be bad if I make my 16 hour fast to 40hour fast for example skipping eating in saturnday?

Susan said...

Great article, and extremely thorough! I have been trying to get my readers and clients to accept this way of thinking for so long. And while the majority do these things because they trust me, they don't truly believe me until they experience the benefits of fasting for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hey Martin, I was wondering if you still took clients because I sent you an email 10 days ago about a consultation request and I never received an answer.

Margrete said...

Hi. I love IF and have eated this way for two years. Now I have started to work early to times a week, then I get up at 04.50. Normally I get up around 07.00 and eat my first meal at 12.00. When I get up early I’m very hungry around 9-10 o’clock, is it possible to take a proteinshake the two days I get up early, or will this destroy the whole IF? Or is there something else I can do?
Thanks.

Jeremy & Kim said...

Martin,

This is pure domination. Thank you for putting in the effort necessary to get the truth out there. This is going to be filed away as one of our favorite blog posts.

Cheers,

Jermy & Kim

Calvin said...

Martin, what would you say to somebody that has gout and can't rely on too much meat for their protein needs? It is a fact if I eat 200g/day that I'll get a gout attack real quick.

Avishek said...

Martin - i just found this study that you may have seen on IFing and testosterone/estrogen ratio
IFing rats had the HIGHEST T/E ratio and most genes altered.
http://ukpmc.ac.uk/articles/PMC2607546/;jsessionid=C426B94CA0100EEB2C4B5C804165D2FB.jvm1

Rest up man

Blake said...

I notice you have Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle on your recommended reading list. I've read this and based a lot of my eating and exercise habits on it. It clearly states that eating 6 meals a day is beneficial, which is contrary to all the "myths" you have "debunked". Why recommend the book?

Martin Berkhan said...

Blake,

You need to read this:

http://www.leangains.com/2008/07/tom-venuto-responds-to-criticism.html

Martin Berkhan said...

^^(Spoiler: Tom Venuto retracted the erroneous claims made in BFFM)

Anonymous said...

Ahh. Enlightening reading.

As an engineer myself I've always had very hard time to believe that it matters _when_ you eat and not _how much_ you eat. That would be against the principle of conservation of energy(mass).

I know (from 30 years experience) that a "proper breakfast" makes me sleepy for whole morning, I can't get anything done. Also howling hungry at midday, another reason to skip breakfast.

Daniel said...

Martin,

First off let me say I am loving this site- it has given me all the info+inspiration I need to dive into IFing and a new training protocol both of which I've been considering for some time. I won't lie, the food porn definitely helped influence me to try it out as well haha.

1. You talk about IFing much in the context of strength training (obviously), but do you stand behind IF enough as to say it is the optimal eating style even for someone not gaining mass/strength & and eating an isocaloric diet?

2. Do you ever take any BCAA or anything prior to your first meal on a rest day?

Thanks, Daniel

Shane said...

Yo martin, great article. We need more people like you in the bodybuilding community instead of just bros who can't back up their statements with real scientific evidence. Keep up the great work.

:Darius said...

what about Robb Wolf's recommendation that IF should only be applied by someone who has healed their metabolic issues first, gets proper sleep, and is already an experienced at working out? otherwise, he says, its basically another stress that the body cannot deal with.

Mike said...

Hi Martin,

I really want to thank you for the great info. Through your site, I've been able to find a solution to my mid morning energy crashes after my 2 'good' breakfasts.

The improved mental focus is great!
Thanks, I was becoming a zombie!

I am looking to gain mass at the moment and fell into the zone diet induced trap of 6 meals a day (not necessarily small either).

After reading things over about your IF protocol, I'm curious about the 16/8 recommendation. How did you arrive at the exact split.

I used to do the zone diet and found many people criticize it for the being FIXED at 40/30/30, but a careful reading of the books indicates that it's not a fixed ratio diet. There's a balance point which each individual must work out for themselves.

So after reading about your lean gains system and the warrior diet. I'm seeing two similar systems that differ primarily in the ratio of time between undereating and overeating and strictness of the fast( I'm aware the warrior diet is not a strict fast in the undereating phase and your system is more strict in the fasting component)

So my question is:

Is this a continuum along which we can adjust the parameters to get different effects?

After I read your page which illustrated different results with differing diets, I was curious abou t the second last approach which you called a bulking phase.

How does this differ from the leangains approach?

If I wanted to unlean and gain more muscle (the smooth look) what would I change?

I'm guessing that one could up total calories and have an earlier fast breaking meal - smaller fast (14 hrs?) - bigger feed window (10hrs?)

Have you tried that?

Would this enhance the anabolic effect slightly (ie gain more strength/size at the expense of leanness)?



Interested to hear your reply...
Cheers!

Mike said...

One more thing, Martin, let me get this straight - This isn't really about a fixed number of meals per day is it?

It's not really about how many meals you eat a day - 3 vs 5 but rather about eating daily in a time limited eating window?

Does it really matter if I have 3 or six meals as long as they are all consumed within the 8 hour feed window?

I'm wondering if it's ok because I'd probably find it easier to consume the required calories using a couple of smaller denser liquid meals.

Candice said...

Hi Martin,

This is a great post. You said that
"Cahill ... found that amino acids from muscle contributed 50% to glucose maintenance after 16 hours." This seems like a significant amount to me. Do you know what the normal contribution from muscle would be? Is it 0 in the fed state?

One more thing, what other sources of slow protein would be suitable before a 20 hour fast besides cottage cheese and casein?

Thank you!

Joe said...

Martin,

Adding to what Darius said above from Robb's comments on IF. Have you ever had a client who didn't seem to respond well to the fasting from a weight/body composition perspective. I've just noticed that when I did eat breakfast before I seemed to make the changes in body comp I was looking for with the same percentage of compliance to a diet. With adding IF I seem to not be moving anywhere in the BF% realm like I had previously. The only difference is that I have not been able to work out in the mornings as often as I had before. I know every situation is different but was wondering what your thoughts would be.

Anonymous said...

Just got to cite Ferruggia:

"Eating six meals a day, every two hours is just another way of being a slave to your lifestyle and your stuff. Having to eat every two hours is just more baggage. It’s like owning something else that you just don’t need. Something else you need to always take care of and revolve your life around.

It’s at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from a minimalist lifestyle that allows true freedom.

That’s why I no longer recommend such a thing to anyone. 90’s hip hop = good. 90’s bodybuilding advice = somewhat lame.

The reality is that every single reason you were told to eat six times per day is complete bullshit. If you eat a heaping pile of eggs right now, the amino acids are in your blood stream for a lot longer than two hours.

You are not going to dip into an extreme catabolic state like Tom Hanks in Castaway if you don’t eat again exactly 120 minutes from now. It’s just physically impossible.

But surely your glycogen stores would be depleted right?

Not even close. Unless you run a marathon you will have plenty of stored glycogen to get you through a strength training workout a day or so after you last carbohydrate meal. Bodybuilders have to almost starve themselves and take extreme measures to deplete glycogen levels for 3-7 days before a show. I’m sure that going longer than 2-3 hours between meals isn’t going to deplete yours.

For quite some time now I have been cutting my meal frequency down. The result is I feel better than ever. I also enjoy life more because I’m no longer a slave to my obsessive eating schedule.

I literally used to get in a bad mood and could be somewhat pissy if I went more than a couple hours without eating. I thought all my hard work was for nothing and that I was in a severe catabolic state. It’s embarrassing now to think back on it.

I’m no longer imprisoned by my need to eat every two hours.

Another nice thing happened as well. My digestion is markedly improved and I feel drastically better than ever before. I have less bloating, faster recovery times from workouts and I sleep better."

http://jasonferruggia.com/minimalism-part-5-meal-frequency/

/Allan

Inga said...

Great article, thank you very much! Personally I believe that one should eat when one feels hungry, not eat when not, and keep it simple :)
I love the way you kill off those myths in a very informative and objective way, keep up the good writing!

Grounded Training and Sports Performance said...

I think this may be the most important line I picked up from your article. "if it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective."

We are animals and designed to survive. Things are not going to be too complex, no need to make more out of things than what needs to be.

Voltus said...

(French speaker here, so my English could be less than perfect)

“I just read it. I'm still not buying it though.” that frustrates you so much could easily be explained with cognitive dissonance and effort justification psychological theories.

Peolple who have bought de "6 a day" stuff for a long time, have spent considerable money in supplements to provide collations, may have a hard time opening their eyes on the fact that all this was lost investment.

The more it costed you (in resources, time spent reading and "learning"...), the more you will rationalize that it must have been worth (you'll do this unconsciously, most of the time).


By the way, thank you so much for what you do.

Kitty Antonik Wakfer said...

Martin, you are the first non-lifeextensionist I have read who is promoting intermittent fasting (IF). It is fairly well known, even if not yet heavily practiced, among those who control their caloric intake for the purposes of healthy longevity. I and husband Paul Wakfer are among these practitioners and have been fasting 1 day out of 3 for almost 2 1/2 years now. (Details of our food practices and its basis: http://morelife.org/personal/health/dietregimen.html - our health statistics and access to other health practices:
http://morelife.org/personal/health/) Our reasoning is all science-based, much of it included among what you have written here.

I do not find the word, "autophagy" in your article, but since you appear to highly prize a heavily muscled body, this does not really surprise me. (I did find that 2 commenter have mentioned the word on 2 of your previous blog entries.) However, if you wish to truly be an "internet .. resource for intermittent fasting", let alone "the leading", then it would behoove you to understand the relationship of IF to healthy longevity, the role that autophagy plays and the drawbacks of a highly muscled body for the purpose of longevity.

While I have pointed out a major lack in your article here, I still see many good points all in one location. Glad to see you in the world of IF :)

Anonymous said...

if arnold says to eat 3 times a day, i think i'll take his advice over yours anyday.

Odille said...

Terrific article. I have linked this site to my Primal Blog and posted about this article there, hope it helps spread the word.
http://primalodille.wordpress.com/

Silje Mariela - BodyWork said...

Just posted your link on my blog.
Keep up your great work!

Silje Mariela - BodyWork said...

Just posted your link on my blog.
Keep up your great work!

Anonymous said...

"Cahill looked at the contribution of amino acids to DNG after a 100 gram glucose load. He found that amino acids from muscle contributed 50% to glucose maintenance after 16 hours and almost 100% after 28 hours (when stored liver glycogen was fully depleted). Obviously, for someone who eats a high protein meal before fasting, this is a moot point as you will have plenty of aminos available from food during the fast."

I've got a question about this. How severe/to what extent will the protein catabolism be? As a high school student-athlete I have a hard time getting enough protein at night. I may get 28g at most from whole foods (not counting whey since it digests so fast), and I don't always get meat... How worried should I be about this?

Martin Berkhan said...

Candice,

"One more thing, what other sources of slow protein would be suitable before a 20 hour fast besides cottage cheese and casein?"

Egg protein.

Anon,

"'ve got a question about this. How severe/to what extent will the protein catabolism be? As a high school student-athlete I have a hard time getting enough protein at night. I may get 28g at most from whole foods (not counting whey since it digests so fast), and I don't always get meat... How worried should I be about this?"

Impossible to say. Tons of variables; your total protein intake for that day, your body weight, body fat%, how much food is already digesting prior to that intake (it'll slow down aa release further), etc.

Anonymous said...

"That people who should know better keep repeating the same myths is somewhat puzzling and strange. Perhaps they lose interest in keeping up with research. What we know today is a bit different from what we knew twenty years ago after all. Or maybe they're afraid that their credibility would be questioned if they change the advice they have been giving for years. I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it quite a bit"

They are not scientists. They are not ready to leave everything behind when new evidence is layed out to disprove them and work and think towards the "truth".

Joachim said...

I´ve got diabetes type 1, so I have to control my insulin levels by injecting it myself. I feel that as long as I eat slow carbs and carbs that stores up in the liver / other parts of the body (I´m not an expert), I can go long periods without topping up with sugar. If I eat fast sugar, I can be sure to experience a sugar drop much sooner. The clinic I used to go to said I should take the same amount of insulin, no matter what type of sugar I eat. I tried that a few times, but after constantly crashing, I decided to flip them off and experiment myself.Slow carbs = more insulin, fast carbs = less insulin (10-20%, roughly). Not sure if this applies to people with functional insulin production / regulation.

However, I have heard that the brain likes to get fed an even stream of energy (sugar). Look at the evolution, we have flat teeth for grinding, weak stomach acid and long ways to process the food (the opposite of most carnivores). Maybe we were walking around, always picking things fresh and eating constantly? Maybe this only applies to sugar? Just a theory.

Ash said...

Enjoyed the article! Very informative! I think you'll find the people with the money to shout the loudest via advertising gain a lot of head-space in other industries, not just bodybuilder nutrition. See, for example, drug companies lobbying health care reform in the US.
That's just the way it goes unfortunately!

Anonymous said...

Its funny that I saw someone above writing how it makes sense from an evolutionary path. Now I would agree with this except that there are many things in our body that just don't make sense. A large portion of our system responses seem very long and drawn out. Like even our insulin response. It seems a bit redundant to phosphorolate such a large number of proteins just to open a GLUT4 receptor after insulin has been bound to the tyrosine protein kinase. I think applying that principle to a large portion of the body can get you in to trouble if you really look at the details and how things actually happen. even NO production (ultimately production of protein kinase G for muscle relaxation and dialation of blood vessels) requires a multistep process that is extremely long and drawn out. Simple pathways like the use of testosterone and DHT in our body promoting growth seem like easier paths to follow and ultimately less energy consuming.
That being said I am actually an IFer myself. Love being able to eat normal foods (just not all the time). I actually like just started and have been reading a lot of your work in addition to Lyles and Alans. I actually am going to become an endocrinologist.
The only thing I really wish was that someone had done an aggregate study for all the different parts. Like the effect of gluconeogenesis of proteins (probably over 300g+ a day), high fiber intake, the effect of insoluble fiber on uptake of macronutrients, frequent mealtime over long periods, and MORE STUDIES ON ATHLETES. I have to say that from the studies I've read, so few have great sample sizes, the p-values are sometimes horrendous to be able to draw conclusions on, and not very well designed. I hope I may one day be able to design my own studies, but Im still a youngling at 19 and in school.
Your site has really renewed my interest in metabolic activity along with the many posts by Alan and Lyle. I hope someday there will actually be a definitive study done, but until then I'm going to go off of the data I can scrap together and the articles you guys cite

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin!

Some people may have a pretty active work including heavy lifts and/or walking pretty much. Do you think it's ok to do that under the fasting phase? (Concern of muscle loss and the performance when lifting weights)

Would be really happy for any answer.

Thanks in advance!

Michiel said...

Hey Martin,

You inspired me. I'm definately going to try your leangains approach as well as I can, finding my own macro's. It will take some work, but i'll be having workout days listed in percentage with:
Pre-workout: 50C/40P/10F
Post-Workout: 55C/35P/10F
Before bed: 50C/40P/10F

I weigh 87 Kg and I estimate I have about 12-13% bodyfat right now, I'll be eating a bit over 2100 calories every day and see if I can get true lean gains. Don't let retards discourage you, you inspired one more person today, me.

Good work :)

Anonymous said...

Hey!

I've read that the discs are more hydrated early in the morning after rising from bed and that it wouldn't be a good idea too lift heavy squats/deadlifts etc. due the bigger risk of an injury in the lower back(Stuart M. McGill).

I just got a thought of this when I read the early fasted training in the morning.

Maybe it's just a myth or what do you think? Is this anything to worry about?

Thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...

It must be an American thing to believe in myths, none of my professors, lecturers or tutors supported any of the invalid myths youve listed here.
That said, some of what you say is based on ignorance or deliberately ignoring existing clinical methods.
For example, eating 6 meals a day can be recommended to people who tend to binge on bad foods. Its not just to say that eating 6 meals a day is healthier for you, rather if they eat 6 meals a day theyre less likely to go out and buy some high sugar/fatty snacks ie. doughnuts, ice cream etc. How have you not come across this in clinical practice?
Additionally, eating 6 meals a day means less strain on the digestive system. Breaking up the work doesnt increase weight loss, rather it has benefits such as lowering the blood glucose level, thus reducing the risk of DMT2. This makes it important for pre diabetic patients.
You seem to point everything to either weight gain or loss, but these arent the foundations of all dietetic advice. Theres no one size fits all here.
There were a few other minor details I had issue with, but overall most of this is simply dispelling bad advice given by laypersons, not nutritionists/dietitians.

Sam said...

I really like this, I'm putting it into practice at http://ifese.blog.com/2011/08/02/introduction/

Thanks, Martin.

Joel said...

Great debunking myths. I though a lot of these were true, but now after you explain them, it makes sense. Great job with the post.

Anonymous said...

hi martin,

i agree with most of what you have to say but i am not sure about the 1st myth debunking. when using the 3 vs 6 vs 9 meals per day calculation, it is assumed that the the energy used by the digestive system to digest food (TEF)is directly proportional to meal size (i.e a straight line graph). if this is true, then the total TEF would be the same, just like you said.

but food is digested by enzymes, and each enzyme can be used many times. a single enzyme could breakdown thousands of specific molecules.

since enzymes are reusable, the TEF may still be proportional to meal size but NOT directly proportional (i.e a curved graph, not straight). this would make the 3 vs 6 vs 9 meals/day TEF calculations highly inaccurate.

thus the TEF for big meals would be similar to that of smaller meals, or only marginally more.

if this is true, there will be more TEF by eating smaller meals more frequently, because the digestive system would use similar amounts of energy to release similar amounts of enzymes as it would for bigger infrequent meals, but more often (because the graph would be a curve, not a straight line).

having said that, i am no expert about nutrition and this is NOT backed by any scientific research, they just my thoughts. what i would like to see is a graph of 'TEF vs meal size', to see whether the relationship is directly proportional or just proportional.

randomdude said...

hi martin,

great post!
I'm totally with you in saying science should dictate and set a direction of this matters. not what someone saw working.

anyway, one simple and noobish question: if meal frequency hasn't been shown to change diet results, what should be the consequences of me making a single meal each day consisting of precisely the amounts required (based on history average + dient calculation)?

Lt. Coldfire said...

Awesome post. Love your articles. I laugh out loud every time you bring up something with "bro" in it ("broscience" and "Average Bro"). Hilarious. Last week I started on the 16/8 intermittent fasting diet you outlined and so far I'm loving it--I actually get to eat full fledged meals. Who'd have imagined. I thought I'd be "starving" by not having breakfast, but other than a couple belly grumbles, it's no big deal at all.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the sciences of nutrition and fitness are still in their early stages. Many hunches are based on a fact about physics/ chemistry plus a hunch that makes sense or an observation. That's why 75 years ago they told retirees to rest, so that they wouldn't wear out. But our bodies are clever, adaptable machines, and we have a lot to learn. I've seen people lose weight running, and I've seen people gain weight running. It doesn't mean that it can't help, but we have to learn more. This is an exciting time to be in this field. --Terry

Andreas Ericsson said...

Personally I believe inertia from behaviours learned during childhood have a lot to do with the "EAT OFTEN OR PERISH!" thing (including breakfast eating). Growing kids need to eat a lot and therefore a lot more often due to their (much) lower levels of glycogen stores, far higher basal metabolism/bodyweight ratio and much less protein stored in the liver (this was new to me, btw) as they simply have smaller organs, muscle mass and stored fat.

Those who continue to eat breakfast are the "good boys and girls" who listen to advice like "do some cardio" and "eat healthy" when authorities tell them to, so they at least stay on the right side of obesity most of their lives, fueling the "breakfast makes you magically healthy" myth when looking at the population in large.

Anonymous said...

Hey Martin,

one point that may interest you. You write:

"3. Even there, I think Gironda had written this. It probably came out of some bullshit paper in the 50's that was taken out of context and just got repeated long enough to become dogmatic truth.”"

He may or may not have suggested this limit, I'm not entirely sure. However one of Gironda's favourite diets, the 'Steak and Eggs' diet, may interest you. "If you
ate steak and eggs only two meals per day were necessary, one meal in the morning and
the other meal at night." That is from p.17 of Vince Gironda - Legend and Myth.

Anonymous said...

One thought hit me when reading the section about starvation. Isn't it interesting how felines in the wild are extremely lean, but only eat at limited periods of time. Now we are seeing an up-surge in many domesticated animals that are actually fat (the Garfield-syndrome). It makes sense when the cat's owner feeds the cat more frequently in the day by leaving out food at all times.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a 19 year old girl about 5'3 and 92 pounds, but I binge on 4000 kcal odd per day. It's killing my body and I can't stop myself once I start.
You're right about diets coming off the rail. I've already got a thyroid disease, so I tried to eat "healthily" with all the above mentioned diets, and it always comes off the hook (i can't diet).
thanks for writing this post, I'm going to try this out and hopefully everything - from my thyroid to depression to acne, will get better

Alex said...

First off, I apologize if this has been asked before.... Im new to the intermittent fasting approach to weight/fat loss. I know I've read many articles supporting eating the bulk of your cals at night, and while I admit, I've been one of those many who thought I would gain weight if I ate too late, I'm now convinced that what you're saying is true. However, I know this as a fact for myself, if I eat late, I wake up hungry! Simple as that. I'm not sure if what I eat has as much to do with the fact that I just eat too late. But if I make sure to eat about 3-4hrs before bed and go to sleep on an empty stomach, then I could go hours before being hungry enough to eat breakfast. Making the fasting portion a lot easier if I make sure my one meal is earlier in the day with plenty of time to digest my food before going to bed. Any advice I'll be helpful. Great articles by the way, so glad I found your blog!

Anonymous said...

Helped a lot, thanks brother..

Suyoung said...

This is genius! I just started doing IF this week and I feel amazing! Thanks Martin for detailed debunking. I'm going to share this with all my buddies :)

Anonymous said...

I've learned more from this article than the 100+ other posts I have read everywhere else on the internet. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I have been researching the efficacy and benefits of intermittent fasting for a couple of weeks now, trying to decide if I want to incorporate it into my marathon training, but I have been very cautious believing the validity of the blogs and forums out there because nothing is stopping them from posting whatever subjective, uneducated belief they might have.

But you organized your ideas in an extremely cohesive manner, and the incorporation of the abundant studies and other writings throughout the post objectively proves your statements. It's hard to argue with the facts!

Thanks so much for posting!

milo said...

Can you drink water while this 16 hours fasting? How often in a week should you do it and when you do it? How should you eat after the fasting and before it?

milo said...

Can you drink water while this fasting? How often in a week you should do it and when you should do it? How should you eat before and after that 16 hours?

Jaana said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It is really useful.

Amen!

Joanna said...

Hi Martin,

LOVING your work!! It's such a relief to finally get some clarity on the confusing business of weight loss - I've been trying to get answers for years and actually feel as though I'm getting somewhere after reading this!
I have just read a book by Daniela Jakubowicz, called 'The Big Breakfast Diet'.
She set up a study, where she compared two eating plans - her big breakfasters lost and kept off a lot more weight than those following a low carb diet with a small breakfast, even though the big breakfasters ate more calories.
I was wondering though - if perhaps - the reason the big breakfasters kept off the weight better - was because they included more carbohydrates, which helped to control cravings - and it was this which helped the big breakfasters to keep the weight off better than those following the low carb plan - rather than it being because they ate more at breakfast.
I wondered what would be your critical explanation for the results - as the difference in the results between the two eating plans are quite dramatic - something like 5 times as much fat loss. Would love to get your critical analysis of it - as I feel I'm lacking some information to be able to make sense of it properly.
thanks!!

Anonymous said...

You've cited studies where metabolism was not negatively affected by fasting. However, there is a contradictory study from 2009. That study found that "intermittent fasting does not affect whole-body glucose, lipid, or protein metabolism". Well, that sounds terrific to us fasters. However, there were sad news as well: "However IF affects muscle signaling pathways that may be beneficial in storing glycogen (GSK) or modulating nutrient signaling (mTOR). The DECREASE in REE AFTER IF may precede WEIGHT GAIN gain during IF when caloric intake is not adjusted." (REE= resting energy expenditure). In other words the metabolism slows down due to IF.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Martin, I forgot to mention the source of information in my message:
http://www.ajcn.org/content/90/5/1244.long

Anonymous said...

Nice article, very informative. I will let my friends and co workers that are out of shape read this. Hopefully it will help them understand reality and not broscience.

noexcusesstrength said...

Martin, this is great just like almost everything you write. Just a note on "censorship" -- your use of the word "retarded" late in the article will completely invalidate the article for folks that are sensitive to that kind of speech. I just don't want anyone to have an excuse not to listen!

Matthew Caton said...

Overall, great article, bravo. But I have a few remarks.

First of all I need to defend Joe Rogan. He's coming from a perspective of training MMA fighters and the way fighters eat. Fighters have to eat upwards of 8,000 - 10,000 calories a day just so they can keep up with their training.

Eating frequent meals is the only way to get enough calories in to meet their demands. Eating smaller frequent meals doesn't happen. Eating HUGE, frequent meals happens by necessity.

Would an IF regimen be possible for an MMA fighter? That's the question you have to ask yourself, Martin. Even a liberal feeding window of 8 hours, such as your protocol would be tough on them.

I also have serious doubts about your BCAA protocol pre-workout. You did a review of a study that showed that fasted workouts double the enzyme p70s6 kinase an hour post-workout, which practically doubles protein synthesis compared to those who are fed. How do you know BCAA does not negate that benefit? It makes intuitive sense that this extra benefit and adaption, would disappear when training with an amino acid in the bloodstream that is very prone to protein synthesis.

And one more note on the comment above mine. Don't let the fascist thought-police censor your website. Say whatever you want to say.

The Rfleman said...

I have lurked on this site for months now, figured it was time to speak up, I loved this article and it gave me a little motivation to get through a Plateu I was at during the time. I am now 34 lbs. lighter and feel so much better! Now for the next 25....

Anonymous said...

Fascinating article. Thanks for taking the time to write this up, it is definitely much appreciated =)

TB at BlueCollarWorkman said...

GREAT article. Whenever I get presented with some "new scientific finding" or some new thing we're all supposed to believe, I always ask my sister. She's got her PhD and so she finds the root of the claim and reads the research paper and tells me what it really says. Lucky I have her and sad actually that I should have to have someone in my life to clear up with the media spews. Great article here though! Great references too!

Donley said...

I got a major question. I read that when fasting once the body reaches around 7% body fat for males it starts to eat muscles. I'm a constant 4 to 5% body fat already. So would it still be beneficial or even safe for me to fast? I'm not on any kind of diet or weight control but exercise regularly.

Nick said...

Recently discovered Lean Gains. I will be buying the book as soon as it becomes available.

I am 6 days in with the 16/8 plan. My macros are dialed in (did that 3 days ago) for a cut. I will keep going through the end of August and evaluate.

Observations:

- a bit leaner
- lost 3 - 4 pounds
- very strong in the gym fasted. love it!
- very focused in the morning before I break the fast.
- no mood issues
- monster energy low carb / alternated with water gets me through the morning
- notice a subtle empty stomach hunger feel 100% of the time. this occurs even after a feast! like my body is just in deficit mode! but it does not feel bad at all.

- Nick

Anonymous said...

Martin, I LOVE YOU!

Anonymous said...

Is the "1-1.5g of protein per lb of lean bodymass per day" to prevent catabolism a myth also? Provided there are caloric deficits during a cutting diet.
Thanks and great post! Glad i discovered you!

Anonymous said...

I don't understand. If everyone claims fasting throughout the night (9pm-12noon) helps lose bodyfat/weight, then why was it stated in myth 10 that studies show people who were late even eaters conserved muscle mass better and lost more bodyfat?

Jim said...

I'm pretty sure that Lou Ferrigno said, maybe in Pumping Iron, that only 30g of protein can be absorbed per sitting.

Anonymous said...

thank you for this...i started looking for information about fasting after noticing my cats' behaviour...it is clear that cats that eat more weigh more regardless of what time of the day they eat their meals...it got me wondering how eating 6 meals a day would benefit me over 1 big meal a day? humans evolved by hunting and eating a big meal everyday or every other day, din't they?
being a victim myself of all those myths floating around, i am so so so grateful for this eye-opener...no more 6 meals a day and remaining fat for the rest of my life for me :D

Anonymous said...

Strangely enough being a personal trainer myself none of this seems foreign to me. I first came across something similar to this through Ori Hofmekler the creator of "The Warriot Diet" and "The Anti-Estrogenic Diet". Intermittent fasting seems to push this notion a little further. I Always liked Mr. Hofmekler's methods but found it difficult for persons who lack discipline though it worked very well so i will look into this method to see how it goes, maybe it will work for the clients i have that aren't able to maintain 4 to 5 meals per day, nice article very informative, i was skeptical at first but when i remember Ori it allowed me to be more open minded.

james lowrie said...

hay how about running before a workout in the morning also if i train at 6.30 and not eat till 12 a small meal is it ok to have bcaa at 8 and 10 am then have a small meal at 12 and a bother meal at 3 the a large meal at 7 that right will this cause fat gain or will i be okay. yes i have read your articles but want to hear the answer from you please. this is also vitally important as i am studying nutrition and dietetics wanted you opinion thanks

JAY

Eli said...

I recently found your website and I think its great. I study insulin and other related topics in animals and I really appreciate the number of studies you cite, and the fact that you actually READ them (!!!), unlike literally every other website and blog of this type I have ever discovered. One thing I would mention - you complain occasionally about people who get on your back for 'interpreting' things and say that these people probably are simply too lazy to go read the actual papers themselves. First off, totally. But secondly, you do have a tendency to interpret sometimes without really justifying it, saying things like "There were methodological problems with this study, so I think its bad and you shouldn't listen to it." I'm not gonna give specific examples because I don't want you to take this as criticism, simply as a suggestion for reaching a wider audience, and leaving detractors with less room to complain. I think your ability to explain things in language that almost anyone can understand is awesome, and instead of saying, "I think this is long enough already," take the time, or at least the space, to explain what you want to explain! Don't give the lazy whiners wiggle room! Or write a book, I'd buy it!

Tatianna said...

What an awesome info and blog you have! I've heard about your blog from TMW on youtube and just now got around to reading this article, which is incredible by the way. I will definitely share this post in my next article.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the book!

Anonymous said...

Test post. Will post some thoughts next post.

Command Do said...

hi Martin, if we suddenly hop into a high-carb diet would we regain fat quickly?

Bikeminx said...

Can I just say I'm sooooooo glad to read something that fits in with my way of thinking. The best bit was about stuff not making sense from an evolutionary or survival perspective. So many times I've heard these myths and been like, what the hell, that makes absolutely NO sense what so ever! Also for the 'starvation mode' body eating its muscle stuff. I read a good article where they subjected a load of marines to high exertion work outs, low calorie intakes and sleep deprivation. They said that the guys only started to lose muscle at around 5% body fat so starvation mode is something most humans need never worry about, yet it's something nearly everyone will threaten you with if you eat low calories or fast for a couple of days! Brilliant, thank you so much for th article!

Kint Verbal said...

I don't understand this:
"In one study comparing two meal patterns, which involved one group eating more calories earlier in the day and one group eating most calories later in the day, more favorable results were found in the group eating large evening meals. While those who ate more in the AM lost more weight, the extra weight was in the form of muscle mass. The late evening eaters conserved muscle mass better, which resulted in a larger drop in body fat percentage."

If meal frequency / starvation has so little effect, how come people eating more in the AM lost more muscle mass?

Anonymous said...

For a guy who is 5'11", in mid twenties age wise, and 28% body fat at around 195lbs, it is theoretically possible to lose up to 3 lbs of fat a week with the optimal diet (IF) and exercise (reverse pyramid) and sleep, supplements, etc?

David said...

Just found your blog for the first time Martin- there's a lot of challenging info all over this so I hope to find the time to read as much as possible. Some real sacred cows of nutrition going to the slaughter! but such well researched counter-argument - a real inspiration!
David

Cody Code said...

The small portions throughout the day is surely getting debunked. You really break things down nicely...you are the best analyzer I have found online. Good stuff man!

Cody

free weight loss ebook said...

wow great long informative post once again, definitely outdone yourself once again! been reading your blog

Anonymous said...

A study done by Norton et al. Shows that an even distribution of protein (30g per meal at breakfast, lunch, and dinner) caused greater muscle gains over an 11-week period than the same total amount of protein distributed unevenly (10g at breakfast, 20g at lunch, and 60g at dinner). The conclusion showed that protein distribution is a critical factor in determining the efficiency of protein use for muscle anabolism.

LeinadeuqoR said...

Hi Martin, your Blogg is simply awesome man, congratulations you gaved me a mind blast! I started your LeanGain diet a week ago and im suprise, i dind expect to be soo easy and to see results soo soon, however, i have a doubt. What are the effects of food and suplemments rich in Iodine (eg. Sea Kelp) knowing that they boost your methabolism by estimulation of Tyroid Hormmons during the fasting?Thank you soo much for charing all this knwollege, your a noble person buddy...Big hug

Anonymous said...

Fitness and diet should be a part of your lifestyle, not consuming your entire life. The LeanGains approach paired with working out 3 times a week for 30-45 minutes gives me immense amount of time for other things, the way it should be. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You knnow, I have tried this 1 meal a day thing and initially it worked really well. However, when I reached my goal, I gained back the weight I had worked so hard to lose in a matter of months :(. The other thing was that my energy levels were down all the time whenever I used to eat 1 meal a day.
I don't know about you guys but eating frequently has done the best thing to my life. It's keeping me alert, I don't feel tired, or bored. My dark circles have gone and plus, I don't have lose skin like I used to have by eating. I have also noticed that I've lost 20kg already thanks to diet. I don't know how the trials were conducted but 6 meals a day isn't a myth per-sa. It DOES work.Well...at least for me it has.

MrFlakGorilla said...

Hello Martin, this might sound dumb.
I might be dumb..
So I want to fast on my restdays, skip the mealson that day, completely.
The starvation mode myth, which is debunked and this particular starvation response timeline here cited from wikipedia (6–72 hours: Glycogen stores are used up and the body breaks down fatty acids. Ketone bodies are produced to help feed the brain.), more or less says go for it.
Since I can actually go that long without cravings, is this advisable or am I thinking utter rubbish that my muscles will be spared that long time?

Sincerely,
a curious person.

Anonymous said...

Proof is in the pudding, and there's a lot of ripped pudding here at Leangains.

Martin is fighting off a multibillion dollar industry that benefits from making and keeping people fat.

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