This is the complete story (with photos) of how I found Intermittent Fasting and Leangains, got into the best shape of my life and totally hacked diet and fitness. All the progress photos are included from along the way. The good and the bad – warts and all.
Let me start by saying – I’m a pretty obsessive guy.
When I find something I am interested in I have no problem doing it for hours and hours even days without taking many breaks.
This can be a bad thing if I’m interested in alcohol, drugs and downward spiraling my life into a black hole. But it can be a great thing if I’m interested in something that is good for me.
These days I’m interested in the internet.
I’d guess I sit in my computer chair for 12-16 hours a day, 7 days a week. And although the things I make can be exciting or entertaining and the digital realm I roam is wildly fascinating – the physical result is that I don’t move much.
So if I don’t do something to counteract my sedentary obsession I can turn into a pile of human mush pretty quick. This is where I found myself earlier this year. And that is what you’ll see, in this first photo.
Ok let me be real honest here.
This photo is embarrassing.
But I wanted to post it so none of you a-holes can say “he’s always been in shape” or “he’s got good genetics”. That is total B.S.
I spent most of my life being “Skinny Fat” – you know, where you’re not really fat – but you’re not really in shape either. You’re just kinda… skinny and fat at the same time.
Being skinny fat sucks.
I used to dream of being in shape like the other guys in school. I never really did sports and had no idea how they were doing it. I was also way too shy and embarrassed to ask anyone for advice.
So I did what we all do – I made up awful workout routines
I did things like pushups and sit-ups in the bathroom so no one would see. I held electric guitars in both hands and used them as weights one time. I curled my grandfathers sculptures. (I probably looked a lot like Joey Ramone in that photo at the top) But that was all a long time ago.
In the last few years I’ve gotten into shape twice.
Both times it took hard core bi-weekly beat downs by a personal trainer in Hollywood. It costs just under about $1000/month.
If I see him twice a week and do 2-3 days of solid cardio I get into solid shape in about 5-6 weeks. If I don’t go for a while… The photo above happens.
By June 7th (the photo above) I’d hadn’t seen my trainer in a year and had just started working out on my own. I basically went back to doing homemade routines in my apartment building’s little mini gym and wasting my time. There was no program, no progression and no nutrition. It wasn’t working at all.
So I decided to join a gym.
This is me on Aug 20th 2013 after working out with some actual equipment in a local gym for a few weeks. As you can see there is “slight progress” but not much happening. I was basically going to the gym and screwing around for 2 hours a day several times a week.
I decided that I saw enough results to stay interested. So I kept watching Youtube videos and kept trying to figure out how it all worked.
The above photo was taken September 14th 2013, roughly 3 weeks later.
I’d taken a 6 day workout split from a body builder on Youtube (that I now realize is totally on steroids). The routine was intense as hell and only allowed one day of rest per week. But at least I was doing real workouts and definitely saw something happening.
The problem was that the workouts were so high volume and there was so no rest. I was doing everything to failure. Soon my entire body started to ache and I had joint pains. I knew that at this rate I wouldn’t last long.
Then… I came across MyFitnessPal and found out what macros were.
This is Sept 22nd. Just 8 days after the previous photo. As you can see – the moment I started fine tuning my diet and nutrition… things changed fast. I ate ONLY chicken, broccoli, sweet potatoes, oats and other regularly eaten “fitness foods”. I thought I had it all figured out and looked great. I was still working out 6 days a week.
Read More about How fitness changed my life in my eBook ’10 Decisions’.
Then I discovered Intermittent Fasting and Leangains
This is Nov 18th 2013 after 7 weeks of trial and error (mostly error) with Intermittent Fasting and Leangains. My workout split dropped from 6 days per week to 3. I stopped doing cardio and went on 30 minutes walks while listening to podcasts on the weekend instead.
Instead of screwing around in the gym fine-tuning a physique that didn’t exist yet.
- I focused only on the major compound lifts. (Squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell rows, overhead press)
- I was in and out of the gym in 45 mins to 1 hour
- I made a spreadsheet and added weight each week and got stronger and stronger.
I stopped food prepping and begin Intermittent Fasting. Meaning I ate all my food during an 8 hour window of time (12pm-8pm) and fasted for the rest of the day.
[tweetable hashtag”#intermittentfasting”]Intermittent Fasting opened my eyes to eating more types of foods[/tweetable].
- Ice cream sandwiches and bowls of ice cream
- Frozen yogurt
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese
- Chipotle burritos
- Whole Eggs
There were all foods I hadn’t eaten for years. I counted it all made it fit my macros and fit in my eating window. I did find keeping it to at least 80% whole foods and 20% fun foods was best for me. Most of the time more like 90/10.
After another 2 weeks of Intermittent Fasting and working out:
My stomach – (which is the hardest place for guys to lose fat) went concave. And for the first time ever I had popped out my chest and shoulders a little without a personal trainer.
My biceps got bigger and a huge vein popped out on each – which was odd because I stopped doing “arm days” completely, focusing instead on weighted chinups and two sets of heavy barbell curls for 5-6 reps, once per week.
My shoulders striated, my abs started carving out out and veins popped up everywhere. Each day I got tighter. No cheat days – none needed. Intermittent fasting seemed to solve that problem because I was eating fun foods regularly.
The Money Shot: Before and After
There it is. I’m currently a month past the “after” photo and still going strong, progressing week after week. Even while traveling.
The best part is that for the first 4 months of training and Intermittent Fasting I had no idea what I was doing and basically wasted time. Now, things are happening faster. I think I could have done it in 60 days if I’d started off properly.
I know I don’t look like a bodybuilder.
The truth is I have never wanted to look like a bodybuilder. I want to look like Bruce Lee. My goal has always been to be able to jump up and down and nothing moves.
My goal for 2014 is to put on 10 lbs while staying super lean. And you better believe I’ll be posting those photos here when I hit it.
My Advice To You:
- Get your nutrition on point from day 1
- You don’t have to do Intermittent Fasting. But if you want to see changes fast. Handle your food first. I regularly hear it said that getting into shape is 80% diet. 10% cardio and 10% working out. If you put your focus on nutrition almost any workout program will give you results.
- Join a gym
- For me I couldn’t do this at home or with just dumbbells. I use barbells almost exclusively. Squats, deadlifts, overhead press, rows can all be done with a single barbell and some weights.
- Start with the basics
- Start with a simple 3x/week program and do it for 3-6 months. Don’t worry about “bringing out your traps” until you have a solid foundation built. When you can deadlift and squat 2-3x your weight then you can move on to traps.
- Look up Stronglifts 5×5 or check out Leangains website if you want to do what I’m doing
- Go to the gym 3x / week and don’t miss a day for any reason (I recently paid a gym owner in a small town in Oklahoma where I do not live to give me a key to the gym so I could workout on Christmas day)
- Track your progress
- If you’re not progressively increasing your lifts you’re not going to see changes. So keep track of your weights and reps each time you work out. There are free sites like Fitocracy that can do it or do what I do and use a simple spreadsheet in Google Drive.
- Hire a personal trainer
- If you can’t get yourself to get started, hire a trainer. My advice is to not go cheap. Find the guy that is in the most incredible shape and pay him what he wants. He’s got it figured out.
- *Pro Tip: Avoid Personal Trainers that are in worse shape than you. (There seems to be an epidemic)
- Don’t worry about what people say
- Everyone will have a different reaction when you take steps to get into shape. And they’ll either hate or REALLY hate you if you start doing Intermittent Fasting. My rule is if someone is in better shape than me I will listen to them. If not – F*CK them.
Now, For Those that Really Want to Dig In
I have been asked to elaborate on my eating and workout plans. So if you are interested in reading further about the precise details of what I do – I have written a detailed overview below.
If you see a major information hole here – leave a comment and I’ll do my best to have it added to this post.
Why I Chose Intermittent Fasting and Leangains
I think we can all agree that the main reason people don’t get in shape or lose weight is because they don’t stick with anything long term. Most of us (myself included) regularly launch into hardcore gym, weight lifting, running, aerobics schedules and then burn out and quit before the results ever get a chance to appear.
Eating 6 meals a day and working out 6 days a week is just not something I can see myself doing for the long term. When I was doing that I literally carried a protein bar in my pocket when I went to clubs so I could be sure to “keep my metabolism going”. It was absurd.
When I switched to Intermittent Fasting and Leangains I realized that I had found a schedule that I could do for a long time. Maybe even for the rest of my life.
- Gone are the worries that if I miss breakfast my body will eat itself
- I no longer believe that eating 6 meals a day will magically help me gain or lose weight
- It’s a simple game of calories in vs calories out, meal timing and macronutrient balance
But please believe – it’s not magic shortcut, silver bullet or the only way that works. The guy that came up with this workout and eating plan didn’t do it and then declare that it’s the only way. From what I can tell – he did it to prove that you can do go outside the box and still get the results you want.
My Eating Window
The first thing people ask when I tell them I’m fasting is “How do you go for days without eating?”. The answer is simply “I don’t”. There’s a misconception that fasting = starving. But honestly I probably eat more now than I ever have – I just fit it all in my 8 hour eating window.
The recommended fasting/eating schedule is 16/8. I eat for 8 hours, I fast for 16. Fasting hours include time asleep.
Example Workout Day Window:
- 6:00am: Wake up, drink a lot of water and coffee
- 8:30am: 10g BCAAs (branch chain amino acids)
- 9:00am: Preworkout
- 9:30am: Go to gym
- 11:00am: 5g BCAAs
- 12:00pm: Meal 1 (largest meal)
- 4:00pm: Meal 2
- 7:00pm: Meal 3
Example Rest Day Window:
- 6:00am: Wake up, drink a lot of water and coffee
- 9:30am: Drink Monster Zero Ultra
- 10:00: 20-60 minute walk/hike with music or a podcast
- 12:00pm: Meal 1 (largest meal)
- 4:00pm: Meal 2
- 7:00pm: Meal 3
This is what I do and have had no problems with it. There have also been several times that I have eaten outside my window and surprisingly the world didn’t fall apart. I am strict, but not perfect.
Intermittent Fasting: Eating Overview
I eat a lot of protein every day. Most days I eat more than 1g of protein per pound of body weight, some days as much as 2g per lb.
I think the general recommendation is at least .08g of protein per pound. You might do some research on your own to see what the right amount is for your goal. I tend to error on the side of more.
These days I rarely use protein powders and instead get my protein from eating real, whole foods. I probably use 1 scoop of powder per day – normally in a protein pancake.
My Main Protein Sources:
- Chicken breast
- Egg Whites
- Plain Greek Yogurt
- Kashi Golean Original Cereal
- Cottage Cheese
My Main Carb Sources:
- Kashi Golean Original Cereal
- Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Whole Grain Waffles
- Whole Grain Bread
- Low-Cal Ice Cream
- Brown Rice
My Main Fat Sources:
- Natural Peanut Butter
- Whole eggs (with yolks)
Macronutrients (Macros) and Calorie Cycling
I eat differently depending on whether I workout or not. All days are high protein. Workout days are high carb/low fat. Rest days are high fat/low carb. I also cycle calories – even if I’m not cutting or bulking.
For example: If my goal is to stay my current weight, here’s what I’d do:
Workout days I’d eat approximately 300 calories over maintenance. Rest days I’d eat 300 calories under maintenance. At the end of the week my +/- net calories are still 0. I’m just eating more when I need it. Less when I don’t.
I have seen drastic physical changes doing this unlike anything I tried previously. It works amazingly well for me.
Workout Day Macros:
- High protein
- High Carbs
- Low Fats
Rest Day Macros:
- High protein
- Low Carbs
- High Fats
Example Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan (Workout Day)
Example Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan (Rest Day)
Yes I weight almost everything I eat. I went to Amazon and purchased 2 inexpensive Digital Food Scales from EatSmart. One for backup in case the first one breaks or dies. I think they were around $25 each and are necessary for tracking.
The first few days were clumsy and stressful. But now my food scale has become an extension of my arm and I don’t even realize I’m using it anymore.
Intermittent Fasting for Women
A common question I’m getting is “is Intermittent Fasting safe for women”? First let me say that I am not an expert or a doctor. I am just a guy that started doing this and it worked for me. I don’t think fasting would effect a woman’s body differently than a man’s body but then again I have absolutely no idea.
If you are a woman who is considering intermittent fasting I would suggest you go to your favorite search engine, read up on it and make a decision for yourself. If you need more information, ask your doctor about it.
Leangains Workout Plan Overview
The Leangains workout that I do is modified to my goals but this is very close to the recommendation. I workout Monday, Wednesday and Friday and rest all other days. I almost exclusively use barbells.
My goal is to put my body under maximum amounts of stress in short bursts then get the hell out of the gym. No burnouts, no screwing around. Some days I do 5 minutes of abs and/or more accessory work but I do it knowing that I am just having fun.
*Tip: I have noticed that I get most of my shoulder/back pulls and injuries during this “fun” time and rarely do it anymore.
I do 2 working sets:
I do a few warmup sets on each exercise before I move to the working sets. The goal of the warmup sets is to get my body ready to be put under a lot of stress. Below is an example, obviously you would adjust for your own warmups.
Example: Bench Press Warmup Sets
- Warmup Set 1: Just the bar for 10 reps
- This gets your joints moving and prepares your body to handle weight. This also helps me practice my form for the heavy sets
- Warmup Set 2: 95lbs for 6 reps
- Add a little weight and practice form – further preparing for heavier presses
- Warmup Set 3: 135 for 3 reps
- Here I have enough weight to feel it. To preserve my energy for the big presses I only do 2-3 reps.
After warming up I’ll take a 2-3 minute rest and then do 2 working sets.
Set 1: The maximum weight I can do for the desired rep range.
Set 2: Drop weight by approximately 10% – take 2-5 minutes rest. The goal of the second working set is to do (1) one more rep than I did in Set 1. So if I did 7 reps in Set 1 – I will do 8 reps in Set 2 and then stop.
Even if I can do more reps I stop. I never go to failure.
I was told this helps you progress and although I don’t know the science behind it I can tell you that I have almost always progressed in weight/reps – even during when I’m cutting and in a caloric deficit (which is not common).
My Exact Leangains Workout
- Deadlift 3-5x
- Overhead Press 6-8x
- Weighted Chin Ups 4-6x (I got this weighted dip belt on Amazon)
- Barbell Rows 6-8x
- 1 set of Weighted Close Grip Chin Ups 6-10x
- Bench Press 6-8x
- Incline Dumbbell Press 6-8x
- Barbell Curls 6-8x
- Tricep Extensions 6-8x
- Squat 6-8x (I use these Rehband knee sleeves for knee protection)
- Leg Curls 6-8x
- Leg Extension 6-8x
- Weighted Wide Dips 6-8x
- Calves 12-16x
- 1 set of Ab Rope Pulldowns 25x
Get Used to Working Out Less
At first it may be hard to convince yourself to workout less. (3) Three days a week and (2) two sets per exercise are much less than I was doing before. I struggled with it at first because it didn’t “feel” like I was doing enough.
The key is to get it done, do it right and then force yourself to get out of the gym. For me the results don’t lie.
Recommendations and Resource Links
The most popular question I get is “Is There a Step-By-Step guide for this whole thing?” And at this time the best answer I can give you is “not really”. There are however several sites that I learned from and guides being promoted that can help steer you in the right direction.
This is the website of he inventor of Leangains, Martin Berkhan. While it is packed with information it is also very hard to use. It also appears Martin stopped updating the site in March of 2013. He randomly posts to his twitter account at twitter.com/Martinberkhan
Martin was also supposed to be writing a book on his concept but apparently lost interest once it became popular. He seems to be a very anti-celebrity kind of guy.
The site of Andy Morgan, a Leangains’ish trainer that I believe lives in Japan. His site is also full of useful information if you take the time to dig around.
Eat Stop Eat
A very popular book by Brad Pilon that covers Intermittent Fasting in great detail. It is also the only book on Fasting that I have ever seen Martin Berkhan recommend on his site. Martin has hinted that he will most likely never finish his own book and that Eat Stop Eat is the next best thing.
This is an online forum where Leangains and Intermittent Fasting are discussed on a daily basis. Users post new questions and answers every day. It’s actually a pretty good resource and is where I found most the information I use today.
So, Is Intermittent Fasting and Leangains Right For You?
You know what? I don’t know if this is for you or not. My advice would be to try it for a few months and gauge your progress.
But do yourself a favor and don’t do it for a week and quit. Don’t do that with any fitness/diet program. If you’re going to do it – be sure you wait long enough to experience the results which can take time.
For this – I’d suggested a minimum of 30+ days. Keep in mind that you’ll be making all kinds of mistakes your first week or two so don’t go off of that.
Getting used to weighing and tracking your food, keeping track of workouts in a spreadsheet and fasting take time to master. It took me several weeks before it started to become natural.
[tweetable hashtag=”#intermittentfasting”]The real secret to getting in shape is simply finding something that you can stick with[/tweetable] and then sticking with it for a long time.
Instead of thinking of this as a way to lose 20 lbs this month – think about it as something you can do for the rest of your days that will improve your life overall.
I hope this overview of Intermittent Fasting and Leangains is of some help to you. It has been a tremendous help to me.
Any questions, just ask in the comments below.