The Leangains Guide

Introduction, Outline, Meal Timing and Frequency.

Leangains calorie and macro calculations are covered in a separate guide here.

 Note: These guidelines are my own summary of Martin Berkhan’s Leangains system. I’d recommend you check out his site.

What is ‘Leangains’?

Skip breakfast, eat big meals, train hard and heavy.  These are the core principles of Leangains – a style of diet and training system pioneered by Swedish nutritionist Martin Berkhan.

There is a school of thought that it can be beneficial for nutrient partitioning (and therefore body composition changes) to have more calories on the days you work out, and less on the days you don’t. Martin took this a step further by experimenting with higher carb/lower fat intake training days, and higher fat/lower carb intake rest days, while combining it with morning fasts. It can therefore be considered a form of intermittent fasting.

I have used this system to coach hundreds of clients helping them in their physique journeys in the last four years.

What are the benefits?

• Reduced hunger when dieting – For a person looking to lose weight, this is one of the biggest benefits offered by I.F. as opposed to other dieting systems. Skipping breakfast allows for bigger, more satisfying meals. After a few days of starting the diet, the body’s hormones, notably the hunger hormone, ghrelin, get used to the new eating pattern and adjust accordingly so you no longer feel hungry in the mornings. Give yourself a week.

• Easier to plan meals – With fewer meals there is less meal prep, it’s harder to screw up your macro counting, and you have more time in your day to live your life.

• Easier to remove stubborn fat – I can’t prove this one, but this is something that Martin has talked about on his blog which jives with my experience working with clients – getting shredded lean seems to be less of a hassle when using this method.

  1. Eat at all your meals in an 8 hour window. Don’t go significantly shorter or longer than that.
  2. It’s better to skip breakfast and fast in the morning, as that’s easier to stick to socially.
  3. Don’t eat or drink anything with calories during this time.
  4. It’ll take your body 3-7 days to get used to the new meal pattern. Hunger pangs will happen until then if you’re not used to skipping breakfast. Suck it up and don’t be a pussy.
  5. Don’t leave longer than two hours after your training without eating anything. Keep things as simple as possible, eat 2-3 meals per day.
  6. Choose your training time based on when you feel best and have time to do it. But if you train late in the day, make sure that you have time to eat a meal. If you train fasted, take 10g BCAAs ~10minutes pre-workout, then 10g BCAAs every two hours until you eat your first meal of the day.
  7. On the days you train, have the majority of the calories after the workout (meaning the time between when you work out and hit the pillow).
  8. You’ll have a higher calorie intake on the training days, less on the rest days. You’ll have a higher carb, lower fat intake on the training days, and vice-versa on the rest days. – Guidelines for this are covered in the Leangains Macros guide which I will link to at the end of the article.

There are multiple ways you can set things up, but as long as you keep to these principles then you will be fine. I’ve expanded below with specific suggestions but when it comes to examples, for the sake of brevity, I’ve given the simplest set-up option for that training time only.

Early Morning Fasted Training

05:50 10g BCAAs
06:00-07:00 Training
08:00 10g BCAAs

10:00: 10g BCAAs
12:00 Lunch ~50% calories/macros
19:30 Dinner ~50% calories/macros

Morning Training

07:50 10g BCAAs
08:00-09:00 Training
10:00: 10g BCAAs

12:00 Lunch ~50% calories/macros
19:30 Dinner ~50% calories/macros

Afternoon Training

12:00 Lunch (~35% calories/macros)
16:00-17:00 Training
17:00-17:30 Snack (10-15% calories/macros)

19:30 Dinner (remaining calories/macros

12:00 Snack (~20% calories/macros)
14:00-15:00 Training
15:30 Afternoon Meal (20-40% calories/macros)

19:30 Dinner (remaining calories/macros)

Evening Training

12:00 Lunch (~40% calories/macros)
17:00-18:00 Training
19:30 Dinner (~60% calories/macros)

For exceptions to these guidelines for stage competitors and athletes, see “Meal Frequency Guideline Exceptions” in my complete set-up guide.

The Diet

Make sure that you don’t screw yourself over by focusing on the timing aspects and missing the bigger, broader, more important pieces of the puzzle.

Intermittent fasting reached a peak of popularity in 2013. Unfortunately with this popularity came the typical fitness industry nonsense articles selling people on exaggerated expectations of what it can help do for dieters and physique focussed individuals. The timing aspects are here to make your life easier, but you can’t just skip breakfast and expect to suddenly get ripped without paying attention to your calorie and macro intake. (The leangains calorie and macro calculations are covered in this guide.)

The Training

Martin has a strong preference for getting his clients to focus on strength. It’s a good way to gauge progress and is a sure-fire way to stop people falling into the fuckarounditis trap.

Put the big compound movements the core of your training program and train three days per week. The squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, and chin-ups should be the core of your program if you wish to follow Martin’s methods strictly. (Though I’d argue that any effective training can be paired with the Leangains diet principles – there’s a link at the bottom of this article to explain what I mean by that.)

Your workouts will take roughly an hour. Could be a little more or less, don’t worry about it.

There are over 100 articles on this site. There’s pretty much everything you need to be successful as long as you’re willing to put in the effort to read. If you are, I’m here to help in the comments if you have any questions. I’ve answered over 16,000 so far, but please respect the time that I take in answering them (up to an hour every day for the last four years) by reading the articles thoroughly and using the FAQ.


The guides on this site have helped thousands of people to achieve their physique goals.

Now it’s your turn.

There are no excuses anymore, it just comes down to you. Do you want it?

How To Calculate Your Leangains Macros →
The Core Principles of Effective Training →

Become a Leangains Pro

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