Monday, January 23, 2012

Lean Gains Led The Way

After reading the wealth of information on fitness and fasting at Lean Gains I tried an implementation last spring.  I can't I say I did exactly what Martin Berkhan would have recommended, but adapted the info he provided to a version I knew I could commit to.  It worked. I lost body fat while maintaining the ability to lift large loads long distances rapidly via CrossFit programming.

I got even more than better body comp and excellent physical performance, though; I also got liberty.  Liberty to get up and get going without worrying about eating.  Liberty to be unafraid if I miss a meal.  Liberty to know that I can eat when I want to and not have a blood sugar crash.  Liberty to train when I want to, not around some notion of a pre-training fuel requirement.  Time is money, time is relationships, time is the only truly limited commodity - having more time and flexibility in how I spend it is truly the gem of intermittent fasting.

And I never would have tried IF except for Martin's testimony - and the convincing photos - that one can both lean out and maintain the muscle needed to perform well, even perform better, through demanding high intensity workouts.  Farewell to the specter of fasted training leading to muscle catabolism - I won't miss you.

I think IF is nearly mainstream now, as even Precision Nutrition is onto the game - as evidenced by the PN IF Guide.  PN has not always struck me as an avant guard institution - although it is a very, very well run business and does a tremendous job for clients - so when they took the time to validate IF, I think it's a reasonable sign that IF is no big secret.

Bottom line - IF works, it benefits health as well as body composition, and I think it is self evident why the news is spread mostly via the web, and not via some print monstrosity that makes all its money via advertisements for junk that folks don't need - which people buy anyway due to the poor quality of science in diet and nutrition.  Because so few of the opinions asserted in the muscle rags can be tested, folks fall for anything and everything.

Ignorance leads to fear and poor choices, universally as far I can tell.

Folks argue that there's more mis-information now that ever due to the web - but there's also an amount of knowledge one can gain, in exchange only for time and effort, that was never before accessible to many for so little.  Amazing times!


  1. I know this is way late, but I'll ask anyway. Could you maybe elaborate on what you did to combine crossfit and leangains? I've only been doing Leangains 2 weeks and can't really tell if anything is happening other than my strength increases have slowed compared to my previous bulk (this I expected, of course).
    Strength + Short metcon, +15% cals
    Strength + Short metcon, +15% cals
    Skill work, maybe some sprints, -20% cals
    Strength + Short metcon, +15% cals
    Strength or no strength + Longer metcon, +15% cals
    Sat, rest/light recovery, -20% cals
    Sun, rest, -20% cals

    It evens out to net 0 of calories, since I'm trying to maintain my weight.

    I break fast at 3pm with a light meal and train at 5pm. Then eat a ton before 10 or 11.

    I guess, I just wanted something to compare to, since I can't really find any specific info on doing this. Most people just say you cant do Leangains and crossfit due to too much volume.

    Are you doing metcons fasted? Do you eat before longer metcons? I'm looking for recomposition, as you were. Did you have a net deficit of calories?


    1. Paco, I don't use the "Lean Gains" program per se. There was a huge takeaway from reading Martin's blog, though - you don't have to eat protein all day and you can train fasted, and you can still get as massive as Martin. I don't aspire to more bulk than I already have, so for me, it showed me that I be much less concerned about when I eat and still be effective in long term gains. That idea has proved true - I've not routinely eating breakfast for two years, and I'm still making gains in PRs when I train consistently (390 deadlift recently, best in 5 years). I've also leaned out by about ten pounds over the last 2 years, spontaneously, counting no calories, just by the intermittent fasting.

      So, I cannot answer the specifics in your question - my goal was to go the opposite of the way you have; I want to pay the least possible amount of attention to quantity of food by paying attention to quality of food and by timing the eating between lunch and dinner. I spend less time planning and eating, which is a win for me.

      You might look at carb backloading or the warrior diet to get more specifics.

      I've used the approach described in "art and practice of low carb endurance" and from "the eating academy" (google either) to stay in nutritional ketosis all the time. I did this even for the Open this year, and managed around the 20th percentile for my age group, and about the 50th percentile overall. That book just helped me to refine what I was doing before. I use a ketone meter to measure blood ketones and am almost always between .5 and 1.5 mmol/dl.

      Hope that's of some help. My conclusions: you can train fasted and do fine if fat adapted. Intermittent fasting helps with fat adaptation and seems to reduce appetite and improve leaning out. You can CrossFit on less than 70g carbs/day, if fat adapted. And you can rock a fasting lipids profile when eating this way - even with 80% of kcal from fat, and lots of saturated fat (heavy cream, coconut oil, butter, red meat).