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.
• 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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