Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Eat Stop Eat Expanded Edition Review

Eat Stop Eat Expanded Edition is the newly released update of Brad Pilon's three-year-old book about intermittent fasting. This is the first and only review you'll need to read on it.

Right off the bat, let me say that the new edition is a tremendous improvement over the original Eat Stop Eat.

Brad has given me an OK to quote some passages that I found particularly interesting and would be enlightening for my readers; this is a Leangains exclusive.

I've also linked to the references provided in the book. These are just snippets. There's plenty more good stuff in the book.

Fasting and testosterone

"After thoroughly reviewing the available research, I found that short term fasting does not negatively affect testosterone levels. More prolonged fasts seem to be associated with slight decreases in Testosterone levels. A 58-hour fast has been noted to cause reduced morning serum Testosterone measurements by the third straight morning of fasting; however, these measurements were still well within the normal range for healthy adults.

In fact, other studies have found that it takes about 9 straight days of fasting before a significant decrease in Testosterone levels is observed. Research examining the effects of brief fasting (14-18 hours) over 21 days found that testosterone levels were not affected by almost a month of short-term fasting."

"Low blood sugar"

"The basic story is that if they don’t eat every three or four hours then they become
hypoglycemic and become irritable, moody, light-headed and shaky. I find this an interesting phenomenon considering as little as 5-10% of the population actually has a malfunction in their ability to regulate their blood sugar levels. There is no actual cut off value for blood glucose levels that truly defines hypoglycemia for all people and purposes."

"According to the research I reviewed on the effects of short term fasting on blood sugar, a 24-hour fast should not place you into a hypoglycemic state, and I have not seen any research that has shown a subject going below 3.6 mmol/L blood sugar during a short term fast."

Brad later explains what those people who apparently can't go a few hours without keeling over really are suffering from. It ain't "low blood sugar"...and if I got a dollar each time I heard someone complain about that, I'd be a millionaire by now.

Fasting and mental performance

"In a test where twenty-one university aged people were asked to perform a series of intellectual tests after having either a normal meal, skipping one meal, skipping two meals or going 24 hours without food, researchers found no difference in performance on measures of reaction time, recall or focused attention time. This led the authors of the study to conclude that short-term food deprivation did not significantly impair cognitive function.

These results have been confirmed in additional studies where healthy young adults ate as little as 300 Calories over a two day period and experienced no decrease in tests of cognitive performance (including vigilance, choice reaction time, learning, memory, and reasoning), activity, sleep, and mood)."

Fasting and cold fingers

"Q: Sometimes when I fast my finger tips get cold, why is that?

Fasting increases the blood flow to you body fat (the process is called adipose tissue blood flow). So when you are fasting more blood is travelling to your body fat, presumably to help move it to your muscles where it can be burned as a fuel. Do to this increased travel to your body fat, micro-vasodilation occurs in your fingertips and sometimes toes to compensate. So in some cases it’s a ‘necessary evil’ in the fat loss process."

I've heard people mention cold fingers, hands and feet after longer fasting periods so the above is a good addition to the FAQ at the end of the book.

OK, now on with the formal review.

Eat Stop Eat Expanded Edition Review

Who is this book for?

Anyone interested in intermittent fasting: the science behind it, as a lifestyle, or as a way to lose fat and maintain leanness.

What will I learn from it?

Besides learning how to practice the Eat Stop Eat lifestyle, this book covers topics pertaining to intermittent fasting and metabolism, health, body composition, hormonal effects and much more.

Strong points

* The book is almost twice as long as the original Eat Stop Eat - and it's 100% interesting and valuable information, not useless filler material. Brad has added information and research on the effects of fasting on testosterone, leptin, cortisol, inflammation, fasted training, whole new chapters devoted to blood glucose and fasting, fasting and the brain, workout design, and more. The FAQ is also greatly expanded. I was very impressed with the plethora of new information and how it was presented. To be honest, and this is just the cynic in me speaking, I only expected fluff and maybe some more on the practical side of things.

* One of the weak points of the original was Pilon's advice and recommendations for resistance training. Instead of advocating heavy resistance training to maintain or gain muscle during dieting, Brad linked to some of his affiliates circuit training workouts. Not so in this edition. Instead, Brad covers resistance training basics and research, and offers solid non-retarded advice to go with it: i.e. the importance of progressive overloading, guidelines regarding training frequency, volume, etc. The new chapter on workout design is a very welcome addition for beginners purchasing the book. I am also pleased to see that Brad and I are on the same page when it comes to cardio for fat loss (which is that it's a poor return on your time investment).

* Very newbie friendly, yet well referenced and scientifically accurate. This is the only book on the market with a substantial collection of research on intermittent fasting.

* Does a good job of dispelling the various diet myths out there: "starvation mode," the claim that you will lose muscle if you don't eat every so often, and much more.

* An enjoyable reading experience.

Weak points

* There are no calorie/macronutrient specific guidelines given in this book, which might be a problem for some people. Of course, if you have a good grasp on calorie counting and such, this is a non-issue. On the other hand, I think Brad left out meal plans/nutritional guidelines intentionally, since he pushes this as a lifestyle diet rather than a "diet" diet, so to speak.

* If I have to to nitpick: Brad talks a lot about the importance of low insulin for fat burning and fat loss. While he does not state anything outright incorrect, it might give the beginner the impression that maintaining low insulin is absolutely critical to lose fat. That in turn might lead to the conclusion that lower carb diets are preferable to higher carb diets, and so forth. On the other hand, he does mention the importance of calorie intake rather macronutrient intakes and backs this up with references.

There is also one part where Brad talks about a "glucagon-dominant" metabolism for fat loss, which is not the case (glucagon does not cause fat burning). In one part Brad also cites a researcher who claims that "the idea that there is golden period of getting amino acids into your muscles is speculative at best," which is untrue. Several studies show increased muscle protein synthesis when protein is consumed pre-workout. This is the only claim I take major issue with.


I rarely give praise or a glowing review unless it's warranted but Brad deserves one. While I don't agree with Brad's views about protein (as stated in his protein book; however, he does mention the positive effects of high protein intake during dieting in this one), there's not much I disagree on, or can critique, here. It's in every way a significant improvement over the original, which was already a good book. If you're remotely interested in the topic, get this. You will not regret it.

Is it worth the purchase if you have the old Eat Stop Eat? For someone like myself, a total geek about intermittent fasting and the research surrounding it, definitely. With the material Brad added, this is one of the best and most interesting books on physiology and dietetics I have ever purchased. I rank it right up there with Lyle McDonald's books. Eat Stop Eat Expanded Edition is a fantastic contribution to the intermittent fasting community.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fasted Training For Superior Insulin Sensitivity And Nutrient Partitioning

I had intended to write about something different today, had it not been for this new and exciting study that came out a few days ago. The study, named "Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during fat-rich diet", adds to the scientific evidence that shows that fasted training may have unique benefits* that are not obtained with fed state training.

* Previous studies had showed that fasted training improves endurance and increases muscle glycogen stores. There has also been work done that suggests an "anabolic rebound" effect from fasted weight training. Theoretically speaking, fasted training should also aid with "stubborn fat loss", such as lower abs in men and hips and thighs in women.

The new study

Let me briefly summarize the study methodology before I'll talk about the results, which are very interesting indeed.

The main objective here was to find out whether fasted training had the potential to induce superior and favorable adaptations to fat metabolism, glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity when compared to fed-state training. The researchers thought this was a hypothesis worth exploring, based on previous studies that showed superior effects of fasted training on fat metabolism and metabolic gene expression. For example, De Bock, et al (2005) and Cluberton, et al (2005).

To test this, they recruited healthy, young males who were reasonably lean and active. The participants averaged 3.5 hours of "physical activity" per week, which I reckon is close to, or less, than what most of my readers engage in. I actually think this is a very strong point of the study. These were not obese couch-potatoes and the results obtained with these subjects should be very applicable to us.

Two weeks before the start of the study, various tests were perform to determine baseline body composition, fitness, diet and health marker values. Then they were randomized into three groups, two of which followed the same diet and training regimen. Only nutrient timing was different.

Training: Two 60-min and two 90-min supervised training sessions per week, always between 6:30 and 9:00 a.m. Training sessions consisted of a combination of cycling and running exercise. Intensity was adjusted to each individual and set to 70-75% VO2Max for cycling and 85% VO2Max for running.

The C-group: Fed training. C received a carbohydrate-rich breakfast (675 kcal, 70% carbohydrates, 15% fat, 15% protein) ~90 min before each training session. In addition to that, they drank a beverage containing 1g maltodextrin per kg body weight during exercise.

The F-group: Fasted training. F received the same "breakfast" as C, and the maltodextrin enriched beverage, but in the mid-afternoon.

The CON-group: Control group (no training but the same diet as F and CHO).

Diet: 50% fat, 40% carbs and 10% protein. In essence, a diet closely resembling the Standard American Diet (slightly higher fat intake in place of carbs). The diet was also hypercaloric, providing 30% more calories than the subjects required to remain weight stable (range: 3000-4500 kcal). Subjects received supervised lunches, whereas all other meals, snacks and drinks were provided by the investigators as individual take home food packages.

The duration of the study was six weeks. After the study, new tests were perform to study investigate changes in body composition, fitness, diet and health markers.

Studies show pictures of hot women increase the likelihood of reading blog posts by 1123%. Irrespective of the subject matter. So if you're all out of ideas for pictures, that's a pro tip. I mean it was either this or another lame picture of me running around in the mountains for some sports catalogue. Click the picture to see these women in all their splendor. Then I insist you read on as I report on the (highly interesting) results.


To save some space here, I will not cover the results in the control group. Needless to say, sitting on your ass and overfeeding for six weeks will not result in any favorable changes to any of the parameters covered below (as confirmed by the study). I will only cover the results in the fed (C) and fasted (F) training group and how they compared against each other.

Glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity: These are basically two sides of the same coin. Glucose tolerance is correlated with insulin sensitivity and vice versa. Both are important health markers when it comes to determining metabolic health and predisposition, or lack thereof, to metabolic syndrome. In summary, F clearly improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. C did too - but to a much lesser degree than F.

GLUT4: Glucose transporter type 4 is a protein responsible for insulin-regulated glucose transport into the muscle cell. It increased by a whopping 28% in F but only 2-3% in C (not mentioned in the paper but this is my estimate based on the graphs). This partly explains why F saw superior results in regards to glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

Since GLUT4 is triggered by AMPK, which is increased when glucose availability is low, i.e. during fasted training, one would assume the GLUT4 increase could then be explained by an increase in AMPK. This was found to be true: AMPK increased by 25% in F, which correlated closely with the increase in GLUT4 content.

Muscle glycogen and intramuscular lipid stores (IMCL): Much like your muscle mass stores carbs as glycogen, it also acts as a reservoir for fatty acids. From memory, an average adult has approximately 1800 calories (reference forthcoming if I can find it) worth of fatty acids stored in muscle. In contrast to muscle glycogen, which is preferentially used during high intensity activities, IMCL is used during lower intensity activities.

Similar to the study I covered in this article, muscle glycogen stores increased more in F than in C. However, no significant difference was found in IMCL storage.

Metabolic enzymes: Very fittingly, the same group of enzymes that were investigated in the study I covered in "Fasted Training Boosts Endurance and Muscle Glycogen" were looked at here.

Interestingly, changes in citrate synthase and HAD, two markers for fuel-utilization efficiency, were not different between F and C. However, two other important markers for glucose and fat metabolism, FAT/CD36 and CPT1, were increased by ~30% in F. C saw no increase at all.

Body composition: Now this is very interesting. Despite overfeeding the subjects with 1000 calories or more, F only gained 0.7 kg. From a scientific standpoint, this is deemed insignificant. That is, the gain could likely be attributed to chance or, very likely, fluctuations in body weight due to increased muscle glycogen. This lack of weight gain in F could not be explained by the training regimen. They were still overfed by 15-20% when accounting for the extra activity. This left the subjects with a theoretical surplus of 650 calories per day, on average, which should have resulted in weight gain equivalent to ~3.5 kg after six weeks.

What about C? They gained 1.4 kg, twice as much as F, despite doing the same amount of exercise and consuming the same amount of calories and macronutrients.

Exercise capacity: Time to exhaustion increased to a similar magnitude in both groups (+15%). However, C saw a greater increase in VO2Max. On the other hand, "FATmax," maximal rate of fat oxidation, increased to a much greater degree in F, with no increase in C.

These results are most likely explained both explained by the absence of carbs pre-workout. The greater increase in VO2Max in C is very likely due to the ability to exercise at a greater relative intensity. Maintaining a high intensity is after all dependent on glucose availability, which was abundant in the breakfast-fed and maltodextrin-supplemented group C.

Recall that the fasted group increased VO2Max and peak power output more in the study I covered in "Fasted Training Boosts Endurance and Muscle Glycogen." What might be the reason for these contrasting results? In the older study, exercise intensity was lower, 65% of VO2Max, an intensity where fat oxidation is maximized. Here subjects were much less dependent on glucose availability to fuel the activity.

In this study, exercise was performed at 75-85% of VO2Max, which greatly increased glucose utilization. When exercising at higher intensities than 65% VO2Max, fat oxidation is progressively reduced and becomes almost non-existent at 82-87% VO2Max.

Simply put, C improved VO2Max more as they could train harder due to providing the proper substrates for fueling the activity. On the other hand, F became progressively more efficient at oxidizing fat at higher levels of intensity as evidenced by the increase in FATmax. This is, in turn, could be explained by the substantial increase in the fat burning enzymes FAT/CD36 and CPT1.

My thoughts

As you can see, the fasted training group beat the fed training group on almost all relevant parameters. More importantly for some perhaps, the fasted training group saw significant improvements in all parameters relevant to improving body composition and health, where as the fed training group saw comparatively lackluster results here.

This study strengthens the theories I outlined here, which is that fasted training may provide some unique benefits to those training in the fasted state, whether it be endurance training, conditioning or bodybuilding. However, this study may be somewhat more relevant considering the higher exercise intensity used, which is closer to, albeit not exactly similar, to CrossFit, kettlebell training and weight training. That is, activities which rely on glucose utilization to a greater degree than fat oxidation.

In addition, I found the lack of weight gain during overfeeding in the fasted group very interesting. Given the improvements in glucose tolerance, insulin sensitivity, metabolic enzymes and maximal fat oxidation rate, it suggests a nutrient partitioning effect that favorably affects how and where nutrients gets stored and burned off.

Carbs may be more likely to be stored as glycogen instead of contributing to fat gain via de novo lipogenesis. Fat that was accumulated in adipose tissue on the day prior may then be more easily released and burnt off during the fasted training session. And so forth.

In summary, a very interesting study, absent any flaws in study methodology, which adds to the mounting scientific evidence speaking in favor of fasted training. It was also fitting to cover it today, as I will be touching on some issues related to the concepts discussed here in my next article.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Amazing High Protein Recipes and Jack3d Review

This post will include a few random goodies: two awesome high protein recipes, the best tasting casein protein powders, a new BCAA recommendation, and a review of Jack3d.

I'm a sucker for puddings and chocolate pudding with milk was probably one of the main contributors for my fatassitude when growing up. I could eat it all day. Still can. But it's not a great strategy for maintaining low body fat.

Fortunately, it's easy to make puddings with the right protein powder. You don't need to be a genius to understand that the main benefit of protein pudding vs regular pudding is far greater satiety and superior macronutrient profile. It's an awesome way to increase your protein intake if you're not into consuming pounds of meat on a daily basis. Requires minimal preparation, which is a plus if you're pressed for time. In my search for the best pudding-friendly protein powder, I went through several brands to find the best ones. Only a few made the cut.

Yes... I've been working my way through tub after tub looking for that perfect protein pudding powder.

Protein pudding basics

Should be a casein powder. Some milk protein isolates also work. Whey doesn't work at all. Mix powder and water (or milk) in a 1:1.25-1.5 ratio, meaning for each scoop of powder you take 1.25-1.5 scoops of water. Less water (i.e. 1.25) yields a thicker pudding and more water (i.e. 1.5) a smoother pudding. Put the bowl with the mixture the in fridge or freezer for 30 min to 2 hours depending on amount. If you put it in the freezer, it'll turn into an ice cream like concoction. This is the way I prefer to eat it.

You can add extras to the mixture: try berries, banana, raisins or cottage cheese, for example. Almonds are pretty awesome as well. Whipping cream on top tastes absolutely amazing on chocolate flavored puddings. After this I never want to hear about someone having trouble getting enough protein because this is so awesome you can eat it like candy.

Protein pudding is diet friendly as well and for extra satiety you can add some psyllium husk or xanthan gum to the mixture (careful with the amount or it won't taste very good).

Best brands for protein pudding

These are the cream of the crop if you want to make the best tasting protein puddings, ranked in order of preference.

Micellar Creme from Syntrax is absolutely amazing. By far the best tasting casein I've tried. Vanilla tastes like vanilla and chocolate like chocolate. Well, everything is relative of course, but I think this is as close to the real deal you can get with protein powders. Taste wise it's almost a tie between chocolate and vanilla but I think prefer chocolate.

Micellar Creme is Leangains certified.

Sloow Protein from Fairing, a domestic brand, is a great alternative to Micellar Creme for Swedes. The flavor you want to go for is Vanilla Ice Cream; very tasty and miles better than chocolate and wild berry (almost everyone I've talked to seem to prefer this flavor). Another very good option for Swedes: Double Pro from Eiselt, a milk protein isolate. Chocolate is by far the best flavor. Order from Svenskt Kosttillskott. Cheapest and fastest in my experience.

100% Casein Protein from Optimum Nutrition is good, especially when you consider the price. Flavor wise, there's a few interesting options. "Cookie dough" tastes surprisingly similar to real cookie dough in an artificial kind of way. Not bad at all. There's two different chocolate flavors but I wasn't too impressed with "Supreme Chocolate". "Creamy Vanilla" was great. I should note that Optimum Nutrition also has a very solid and tasty line of whey protein so if you're looking for that, definitely consider something from ON.

Honorable mention: Daniel Clough from Wannabebig sent me a snack pack a few weeks ago. Among the various supplements I found a little gem in At Large's very tasty protein blend (whey, casein, egg protein) Nitrean.

Unfortunately, Nitrean mixes too damn well to make a good protein pudding. However, if you're looking for a good protein blend to use for shakes, Nitrean is an excellent choice. It works very well for protein fluff as well.

By the way, check out this intermittent fasting article on Wannabebig if you haven't already.

Introducing protein fluff

Now this is some truly great stuff. Only 200 calories, tastes awesome and extremely satiating.

This recipe has been around on Swedish forums for some time. I didn't come up with it myself and I owe it to a guy named Fever for coming up with the original recipe and Andreaz for perfecting it. Andreaz was eating it like crazy on his latest contest prep and it was probably one of the reasons he felt this was his easiest diet ever. Wish I knew about this little gem a few years ago.

This is what you need:

~40 g protein powder. Works with: 100% Casein Protein , Nitrean, Sloow Protein and some whey protein brands (I've tried it with Syntrax Matrix). Unfortunately, I've not been able to make it work with Micellar Creme. Please let me know in comments when you find new brands this works with and I'll add them here.

200 g thawed and mashed berries: strawberries, raspberries or blueberries. Works best with strawberries or raspberries in my experience. Word on the street is it apparently also works with mashed bananas though I haven't tried it yet.

0.5 dl (or 1.7 ounces) skim milk. You can probably use water as well but I think skim milk will get you a better "fluff".

Sweetener (optional)

Alternative version: 30 g protein powder, 125 g berries, 1.25 dl (4.25 ounces) water or skim milk.

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

2. Use a mixer on the strongest setting and mix thoroughly for several minutes.

The concoction will expand or "fluff up" to several times its original size. After 8-9 minutes, it'll look like the picture below.

Serve and enjoy as it is or add some extras like cacao or sliced bananas.

It all comes out to about 225 kcal, 36 g protein, 21 g carbs and zero fat. You can also put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes and it'll resemble a creamy kind of sorbet.

If you plan on eating this on a regular basis, getting a standing good mixer with a bowl will be a nice time-saver in the long run. I'm using "Philips HR1565" which is about $80 or so. If you can't get a hold of that one, Sunbeam 2371 Mixmaster Stand Mixer, White seems like a good alternative. It's important that the mixer is strong (350 watts or more) and has a large enough bowl (3 liters or more).

New BCAA recommendation

I've been using Xtend from Scivation for my fasted training sessions ever since stores around here ran out of Purple Wraath a few months ago. Taste and effects wise, it's pretty much a toss-up between Xtend and Wraath. Price wise, Xtend can't be beaten. Flavor wise, Xtend is very agreeable and I prefer "Refreshing Watermelon". Check out the Leangains Guide to find out why you need BCAAs before fasted training sessions.

Jack3d Review

I've been trying a wide range of pre-workout supplements but I've never found something worth recommending. Some like the extra pump from NO Xplode and similar nitric oxide based supps, I just don't have any use for it.

I was pleasantly surprised by Jack3d. Besides the usual ingredients present in many pre-workout supplements, such as caffeine, creatine, arginine and beta-alanine, it contains 1,3-Dimethylamylamine also known as geranamine. This is a potent stimulant (as far as legal alternatives goes) and this is what provides the oomph in this product.

Apparently Geranamine is used as recreational drug in some circles and banned in a few countries. I wouldn't be surprised if we'll see more countries banning it soon as everything that is mildly effective seems to get a ban sooner or later. Shortly after I wrote the supplements guide, Meltdown and Clenbutrx both got banned in Sweden.

Anyway, being somewhat resistant to stims, I started off with the maximum recommended dosage the first time (three scoops). After 5-10 minutes, I could tell that it was working as I got an intense urge to do the dishes. During training, I didn't notice anything out of the norm besides a somewhat uncomfortable back pump after squatting. After training, I had to wait two hours before my appetite returned. I never have problems eating after training, especially not after fasted training, but the thought of food made me queasy. I also noticed some slightly panicky feelings at that point, the kind where you want to crawl out of your own skin. Nothing serious, but for those sensitive to CNS stimulants or prone to anxiety attacks, I would not recommend starting off with the highest dose like I did.

However, it seems tolerance develops and within a few days I could use the maximum recommended dosage without any side-effects. Unfortunately, the stimulant effect is also lessened.

In my experience, Jack3d is quite effective, but less so for the purpose it's advertised. I see its use mainly as an appetite suppressant or stimulant, much like ephedrine. The mechanism by which Jack3d exerts its effect is also similar to ephedrine in that it increases epinephrine/adrenaline, which in turn boosts lipolysis and leads to that "focused" feeling. Or that urge to do something, anything.

Either way you want to use it, as a pre-workout or motivational boost, or for appetite suppression, Jack3d works, which is why it ends up on my list of recommended, but certainly not essential, list of supplements.

By the way, I haven't found any studies to back the effectiveness of 1,3-dimethylamylamine for fat loss. If anyone knows of any human trials regarding its use for weight loss or improving cognition, alertness, or anything else for that matter, let me know. I always try to find some scientific backing for the supplements I recommend but I'm at a loss for this one.

P.S. I've fallen behind on my blogging schedule but will have another article up this upcoming week. This one will include some weight training and cardio guidelines that you absolutely need to know about.

P.P.S. For more supplement recommendations, check out "Supplements You Might Actually Find Useful".

P.P.P.S. It's pretty awesome that Tim Ferriss follows this site.

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

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