For many months now I have been experimenting with nutrition and working out.
After a few years with a personal trainer and then a long break without anything, I found myself out of shape and feeling depressed. I couldn’t see myself going to a trainer for the rest of my life so I decided to try to get in shape by myself.
The learning curve was huge – I have no background in sports at all. But using Youtube videos and a Reddit thread I was able to find a program that works for me.
It’s called Intermittent Fasting and Leangains. And today I’m going to tell you why I’ll probably stick with it for the rest of my life.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent Fasting, or I.F. is an eating pattern that alternates between times of fasting and non-fasting.
My setup is very simple. I start eating at noon and stop eating at 8pm. I am basically skipping breakfast, every day of the week. There are many different ways to do IF including full days of fasting. But with my simple schedule, I get the benefits of long term fasting without having to go a full 24 hours without food.
What is Leangains?
Leangains is an intermittent fasting and strength training program developed by Martin Berkhan, a Swedish nutritional consultant and personal trainer.
What Leangains Looks Like:
- Fast for 16 hours, eat for 8
- Lift 3x a week using Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT)
- Lift heavy using compound movements (squats, deadlifts, bench press, chinups)
- Eat more calories and more carbs on workout days
- Eat less calories and more fats on rest days
- High protein every day
- Drink a lot of coffee
With that being said. Here are 11 reasons I stick with Intermittent Fasting and Leangains.
- Focus. (both gym and work) The level of focus I get during the fasted state is incredible. Before the gym I use this focus to write for this website, write music and think up new angles for campaigns. It’s almost like being on speed. Fasted training is also a much more focused experience. When I used to eat pre-workout meals I felt sluggish while lifting. Going in fasted with just coffee, BCAAs and a pre-workout powder in my system, I feel like a superhuman and workout like a wild animal.
- Coffee. I love coffee. I drink 2–4 cups every morning. Most workout programs insist that you eat a big breakfast because “it’s the most important meal of the day”. But big breakfasts make me tired. Leangains recommends you skip breakfast and drink a lot of coffee in the morning while you fast. These morning hours of fasting and coffee are now my most productive times.
- Feeling Hungry. I like feeling hungry. When I’m hungry my focus goes up and brain works better. Before, that meant starving myself and at one point years ago I dropped to 135 lbs, which for me is very skinny. With Leangains I get to enjoy that hungry feeling in the morning that I love. But I also don’t starve myself because I’m getting all the calories I need in 2–3 huge meals throughout the day. It’s the best of both worlds.
- Learning to cook. My cooking skills have gone from 1–100 since I started Intermittent Fasting. In the past I ate only dry chicken and boiled brocolli. These days my kitchen is equipped with a mixer, blender and a food thermometer that allows me to create beautiful, tasty, filling meals that are also healthy. Cooking at home also allows me to know exactly what I’m eating.
- I get to eat huge meals. Because I skip the first meal of the day, I am able to eat bigger meals later on. Even when I’m cutting and in a caloric deficit I am still eating big, filling meals.
- Carbs and Healthy Fats. In the past I believed that carbohydrates and fats were my enemy. Most of my meals consisted of protein and vegetables. It made me lean but it also left me starving. Now I cycle carbs on workout days and healthy fats on rest days. I eat more of them now than I ever have in my life and continue to be leaner than ever before. Now that my diet is more balanced I feel better and my body works better overall.
- Barbell training. Leangains is a 3x per week strength training routine. Almost all of the lifts are done with barbells. I rarely use machines and only use dumbbells for incline press. Everything else is done in the back of the gym, with a barbell. It’s easier, more focused and I am getting much faster results.
- It is rebellious (was). I’ve read that Martin created Leangains to break the myth that you had to work out 6 days a week and eat 5 meals a day to get in shape. Now that Leangains has become more mainstream, Martin stopped writing about it and quit promoting it completely. Last I heard he is working out at home doing 1-arm chin-ups. What it has taught me is that there is more than one way to get in shape. You can fast, or not fast. You can workout 2 days a week or 7 days a week. You can do 2 hours of cardio a day or no cardio. As long as you do something consistently and keep your diet in check, you will get results.
- Simplified eating (repeating meals). Tracking your food every day can be hard, especially for the first few weeks. To make it easier I created a few simple meal plans. They include all of my favorite foods and I repeat them almost every day. Because I’m eating the same meals over and over – I’ve been able to cut prep-time and cook-time down to a minimum. I know exactly how many minutes my protein pancake needs to cook and I know exactly how many ice cubes go in my protein froyo mix for the perfect texture (14 ice cubes). The mental shift I had to make was to stop thinking of food as pleasure and entertainment and start thinking of it as fuel. If you can make that switch, from being a food product consumer to eating like a human being who needs food for fuel, your life will change.
- Food Variety. I know I just talked about repeating meals. But rules are made to be broken. In the past I ate eat clean (Paleo-ish) 24/7. I definitely saw results but I was miserable. I developed a pattern of dieting then binge eating. I tried eating clean 6 days a week and having a cheat day on Sunday. On cheat day I would eat 3000–5000 calories of pure garbage. It would erase my progress from the week and leave me feeling sick and depressed. Intermittent Fasting and Leangains taught me that I can eat a variety of foods and still get ripped. Now I understand that I can add “fun foods” to my diet every day and still get lean. As long as I hit my calorie and macro goals for the week I’m fine.
- Long Term Thinking. Most people don’t get the results they want from dieting and working out. That is because they set unrealistic goals and timelines. Leangains taught me to check my results over a 3 week period and not worry about the day to day. If I’m trying to lose weight and I see that I gained 2 lbs yesterday I don’t panic or quit. I keep going and it balances out over time.
Sound interesting? Give it a try.
To keep it simple I suggest skipping breakfast for the next few days and see how it makes you feel. Pay attention to your focus and overall physical feeling.
Drink plenty of water, especially if you are going to train fasted. I felt dizzy my first few fasted workouts but realized the problem was actually dehydration and not lack of food.
- Skip breakfast for a few days
- See how you feel
- If you like it, keep going
After months of experimentation I found a workout and nutrition plan that works for me. It’s called Leangains. Leangains allows me to feel hungry and focused in the morning, workout like a wild animal and eat food that I enjoy.
The biggest lesson Leangains has taught me is that there are many ways that you can get into shape. Find a system that works for you and stick with it for a long time.
The key to results is thinking long term and making slow progress over time. Judge your progress by the month and by the year, not by the day or week.
And a bonus: I have found that working out, eating right and being in shape provides as much of a mental benefit as physical. So if you are feeling down and out give it a try and you just might be a happier person…
Who also happens to look better naked.
My Transformation with Before and After Photos
Is there a reason to do RPT? I warm up, then put weights on, and just keep increasing the weights, usually try to do at least 6 reps on the lighter lifts, and I do my best to get at least 3 in of the heavier. My squats, deadlifts, benching, have all drastically increased in weight; Also my assisted chin-ups/dips, have also improved. Meh, I think I’ll just go with the idea that there’s, “Not really a set regime,” and that as long as I am seeing results, I’ll just continue.
Arron Emilly says
Hi malan I’m looking to get lean and build bit of muscle I want to try this IF out I’ve herd so much about it but I’m just wondering what should I eat in my earring periods does it all have to be health and is there any workouts i should avoid or do more of thank you arron
Thomas Henley says
Hi Malan, great article! I just did LG day 1 today, and already think I could get used to it. I have 2 quick questions. 1. Do you find that you get sluggish or have a dramatic loss in focus after your feeding window? I have a long gap between classes during the day, and it would be pretty ideal if I could hit the gym early and then get my calories through the early day right up until my second class. But if the big eat turns my brain to putty, it’s a no go. I don’t want to sit through lectures feeling sleepy or dumb.
2. A lot of people have said that they have to eat more after getting into LG. As in, significantly more calories per day than their old maintenance number, just to keep the same levels. A lot of other things I’ve read say your calorie count should stay exactly the same if you want the same results. Can you shed any light on that?
Thanks again for the great read.
Hey man, do you still doing Leangains IF daily? I’m just starting out. Do you have some spreadsheet to share? Thanks!
Malan Darras says
IF daily = 99% of the time, yes. Spreadsheet I use came from here: https://www.reddit.com/r/leangains/comments/1jlsfx/tldr_guide_of_31minutes_ama_pdf/
Thanks man! Nice blog and life! Congrats !
Did you ever run into not feeling great during workouts and experiencing regression in your lifts during a cut?
This is my first experience with IF/LG, and it’s been a great success, getting me down to ~11% bf. Everything is going smoothly – almost effortlessly – except my workouts are getting to be a struggle, at least on my main lifts. My strength has decreased – only ~5%, so marginal – and I was experiencing some serious dizziness during my last two deadlift sessions.
I feel great outside of the gym, for the most part.
Ever experience training issues deep into a cut like this? Or heard issues like this addressed elsewhere?
Malan Darras says
Hey max – yeah it’s common for strength/lifts to go down during a cut. Especially if you’re in a significant caloric deficit. You can’t expect to lift more weight as you become a smaller human being. -5% strength decrease is actually pretty great for a cut.
And for me, I got really dizzy during my first cut and thought it was due to not eating pre-workout. Turned out to just be dehydration – now I drink about a 1/2 gallon of water in the morning before I hit the gym and I’ve never had that problem again.
But honestly I think most of us get dizzy after deadlifting max weight. You’re taxing your entire body and central nervous system at once. I normally take a knee after deadlifting and give myself a moment to recover.
Lots of discussion here: http://www.reddit.com/r/leangains/
David M. Đinh says
I stumbled upon your blog via IF/ LG, though now I’ve been browsing around as you’ve introduced me to a whole new perspective on working for myself and quitting the rat race. I would have never known, so thank you for that knowledge! I’m sure I’ll be chiming in here and there, possibly even asking you a question once in a while as I start that journey.
On the IF/LG front, I’ve been following it for the last couple of years and have found it fascinating how simple compound movements can add so much mass while dropping bf%. I’m far from my goal due to several distractions, but still amazed at how easy it is to cohere to this lifestyle for the most part. I’m glad you are sharing this with the world. How are your results with RPT? I started off IF/LG with Starting Strength and then switched over to Wendler’s 5/3/1, now that my strength is decent, I’m considering the switch over to RPT. Would love to hear your thoughts!
Malan Darras says
Yeah the compound movements are a game changer. You start to feel sorry for all the people running around doing accessory work only.
I love RPT – few warmup sets, then hit your big set and then 1 or two reduced sets and you’re on to the next thing. My results have been great and it fits my lifestyle well, which is more important than anything.
I think any strength training program is solid though. Just find what works best for you.
IF changed my life when I incorporated into my cut. Felt as if the fat was just melting off me during my fast and the meals were so satisfying. I was getting lean and eating like a pig infront of everyone. Somedays i would fast 18-22 hours just to test myself. GOOD WORK!
Malan Darras says
I agree. Cutting with IF is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. Like you – the fat melted off of me and my stomach went concave for the first time in my life. I’ve been IF’ing with a 16/8 window for about 5 months now.
Eating right is the hardest part. I’m looking forward to Soylent! But, I’ve cut back on caffeine and I notice that if I don’t eat before working out, the first set of squats makes me ravenous and weak….
Malan Darras says
DNter, yeah eating is 80% of getting into shape. 10% cardio and 10% working out. If you can master the food thing, you’ll see insane progress, really fast.
The first week of fasted training was hard for me. I almost passed a few times one day but I realized it was because I hadn’t had enough water. Now – i drink about 1/2 a gallon – 1 gallon of water in the morning before I go, mix in 10g of BCAAs and some preworkout and I feel like a monster.
Are you doing a strength training program?
I did the madcow 5×5 basic then intermediate for a few years and since then it’s been my base. I respect the way he laid it out and everyone who tried it saw great progress. BTW thanks for your posts, I’m sure I speak for a lot of people who also appreciate your site!