Monday, October 17, 2016

The Leangains Study


After last month's scientific debacle, there's finally a good study on intermittent fasting and lifting. This one comes from Italy and also involves Grant Tinsley, but the change in scenery and colleagues must have done wonders for the man, because this is truly a huge bump in quality compared to his last publication.

I'll remind you that the previous study that involved intermittent fasting and lifting was marred by intolerable food reporting. This study contains none of its predecessors glaring methodological flaws.

Thankfully, Greg Nuckols have already provided a good summary of the results. Since I also agree with most of his points and perspective, I'll just link it here:

The “Leangains” Intermittent Fasting Study Is Finally Here.

...And that saves me a lot of time in the sense that I can just skip over the boring parts and get right to the meat of things. 


1. In this study, intermittent fasting beats out a normal diet, assuming we count points based on the overall impact on body composition. Over 8 weeks, subjects doing intermittent fasting a la Leangains, lost a lot more fat - and even gained more muscle - than subjects on a normal diet. 

2. True, the muscle gain is non-significant - scientifically speaking - but for someone in the real world, adding 1.4 lbs of muscle over 8 weeks is quite a bit, especially if you're simultaneously losing fat. 

3. These guys were not beginners either. Starting out with an average bench of 107-110 kg at 84 kg or so, they were well into the intermediate stage. It's worth noting that the intermittent fasters upped their bench by 3.3 kg, while the other group barely gained anything (0.7 kg). Increasing your bench press while losing weight is a bitch, that's why it's worth noting. On the leg press, gains were about equal in both groups (8-10 kg).

One glaring flaw in this study is the lack of seal rows.


All in all, I don't think I could have asked for better results if I so funded this study myself. It would lie in my best self-interest to make a bigger deal about it all, but I can't really muster up the same excitement when a good study comes along. I prefer to criticise and point out flaws and this study doesn't have many. 

Food reporting is a limitation, as always, but since you won't ever see a study where this potential confounder doesn't exist, you might as well spare people the redundancy of pointing it out every single time - unless the protocol is truly inadequate (which it was in the previous study, for example). 

Here, there is no major discrepancy between the food intake reported and the actual results. A contributing factor to the much more precise numbers obtained here compared to the previous study, I think, lies in the fact that the subjects had a good amount of weight training experience (5 years) and thus were a lot more likely to know the ins and outs of what they were eating. If you've accumulated 5 years of weight training experience, it's inconceivable that you aren't aware of what you're eating - this is in stark contrast to the previous study by Tinsley et al, which featured beginners with no weight training experience, and presumably matching diet experience, which is to say none.

Consequently, these results are as legit as they can be in my eyes. It would be cool to see them replicated, of course, but until that happens, it's the best study* on intermittent fasting and lifting to date.

* Unless you're counting my own "studies" of course. I will publish another one soon, but there are no great surprises here, because gaining muscle while losing fat is just business as usual in my book. Unless you're at the advanced stage, you should be gaining muscle on a diet. I'm not talking pounds or inches, but you can and should see measurable progress on most of your lifts on a monthly basis, as long as the deficit isn't too steep or the training regimen too dumb. Come to think about it, that's actually a lot to ask for, so feel free to browse around this site to get a clue if you feel that you need one. 

Beginners and intermediates have it good. At the advanced stage, some muscle loss is inevitable without drugs. I miss the days were I could increase my lifts while simultaneously dropping weight.


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

Welcome to the Internet's leading resource on intermittent fasting and all things related.

FeedBurner FeedCount

Google Friend Connect

Join Me on Twitter


Follow Me on Facebook

Recommended Reading

Lame Title, Good Book

Recommended Reading

Intermittent Fasting for Fat Loss

Recommended Reading

Covers All Bases

Recommended Reading

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

Recommended Reading

Fat Loss Made Easy

Great Interval Timer

+1 If You Think Leangains is Awesome