Intermittent Fasting & Leangains – Step by Step Guide

Andy MorganCoaching845 Comments

Andy - 7 Week Ab comparison BW

Despite your best efforts, do you look pretty much the same as you did six months ago?

I used to understand this feeling well.

The problem is not a dearth of high quality information, no, there is simply too much of it, and the conflicting advice out there leads us to distraction.

When it comes to physique change the magic happens when you filter out all the chaff and focus on one way of doing things, and that’s what we’re going to do here.

How does two meals a day, three days a week in the gym sound?Refreshing I would bet. I’m not going to pretend that this is the answer to chasing your physique goals, but I honestly believe it’s the simplest method to go about it for 95% of people – busy people like you.

Learn from my mistakes

I said above that I understood that feeling of working my ass off and not making changes.

Wind back to my early-twenties. I’m in Goa, India. I found the courage to chat to a cute girl on the beach, and I invite her out to dinner the next day. Conversation gets a little deeper, we start talking about our interests, “You know, you don’t look like you work out the amount that you do.”

There was so much truth in that statement that it hurt like a swift boot to the nuts.

See, I think I was a little nutty at that time, perhaps trying to turn myself into Jason Bourne. I was doing Karate twice, Aikido 5-6 sessions, and cramming three gym sessions into my week around work. Embarrassingly, I was also dropping around $200/month, shipping all kinds of supplements over to Japan from bodybuilding.com.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the obvious. I’m thankful for that comment, it lead me down a path where I started to discover the importance of getting your diet right to support your physique goals, the waste of money that most supplements are, and what quality training is. If you’re new to this, a friend linked you here probably, potentially you’re about to save yourself a lot of time and effort. Are you going to keep spinning your wheels or dare to try something new?


Steps to Success

  1. Get Motivated
  2. What We’re Going To Do Different
  3. Try the Simple Set-Up
  4. Read my Tips for Success

A training or diet method is merely means of achieving your goal. Many people get hung up on a single method at the cost of progress – don’t let this be you.
Be flexible. Be open minded. Be prepared to make a change, to see a change.


Get motivated

Check out this client results gallery.  For every person you see there are many times more scattered throughout the internet. These are regular people who decided they would do something, rather than complain about genetics or something else. There are no more excuses, all the information is right here, right now.


What we’re going to do different

1. Shift the focus to diet rather than training.

Emphasis on training over diet is what stopped me from seeing the changes I worked so hard for. Many people are like this.

Fat loss is 70% diet, 30% training. If that’s your goal then put your efforts in that ratio for results.

The man in the photo trains once every 3 days, for less than an hour, with no cardio. He is natural, doesn’t use fancy supplements, and used to be fat and flabby himself. His name is Martin Berkhan and is the founder of the Leangains diet system I introduce in this guide.

2. Purposefully skip breakfast.

Dieting generally isn’t very fun, but by reducing meal frequency so we can eat bigger meals it’s possible to still feel full and satisfied most of the time and yet lose weight. (Sound counter-intuitive? Worried that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Let me allay your fears here.)

3. Eat more food when your body needs it.

We’ll eat more carbs on the days you weight train for recovery; less on those you rest. On training days you’ll eat more of your calorie intake after training than before.


Try the simple set-up

The Diet

Intermittent Fasting Diet Set Up

General Outline

  1. Choose an 8 hour ‘feeding window’.
    • This means an 8 hour time frame within which you will consume all your calories for the day.
    • So as not to destroy your social life it’s better for most people to skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner. Something like 1-9pm. Doesn’t have to be a perfect 8 hour window, plus or minus 2 hours if that fits your schedule is fine so think about when you usually eat with your family or friends when deciding.
  2. Don’t eat anything for the other 16 hours. (A splash of milk in your coffee is fine.)
    • If you have irregular work hours/schedule see this guide.
  3. Getting it right 90% of the time is good enough.
    • Some days timing will be off. Don’t stress it. Yes, you can still drink on the weekend and not have to worry about your feeding window too much.
  4. Meal frequency doesn’t matter…
    • …but simplicity is your friend. Two meals (at 1pm and 8:30pm for example) or three meals is fine if you prefer.
  5. Weight-train 3 days a week. Rest 4 days a week.
  6. Training days: eat more carbs, less fat.
  7. Rest days: eat less carbs, more fat.
  8. Keep protein high on both days.
    • Leaner cuts of meat/fish for training days.
    • Fattier-cuts of meat/fish on rest days.

A Little More Detail

The hierarchy of importance for success is as follows:

Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance Pyramid

What this means is that you can’t eat just ‘clean foods’ and ignore calories, you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet, and you can’t use some special timing tricks to enable you to binge eat on the evenings.

Calorie Balance > Macros > Micros > Meal Timing > Supplements

  1. If you get the macros (protein, carbs and fats) right, then the calorie balance will be right, because counting macros is just a more detailed way of counting calories. See, ‘How to Calculate your Leangains Macros‘.
  2. If you eat a fist sized portion of fruit and veg with each meal, and vary your choices each day, you’ll likely have the micros covered.
  3. Timing has been taken care of in the general outline.
  4. Forget about supplements for now.

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The Training

Intermittent Fasting - No Cardio - Shredded Abs
Clients Scott, Jeff, and Phil (left to right)

Looking ‘ripped’ or ‘shredded’ is a function of two things: Low levels of body fat and sufficient muscle mass. You need both so don’t skimp on training.

1. Strength-train 3 days a week.

In the short-term anything will provide a training effect, this is why there is so much BS out there. However I think it’s better to start in the way you mean to go on.

  • I believe barbells are the most effective for building strength and muscle mass. – It’s too easy to cheat yourself out of a good training effect with bodyweight work, and barbells are better for incremental loading than dumbbells. (Justification: ‘Why Barbells?‘)
  • Do big compound movements and forget about the rest for now. (Squat, Deadlift, Press, Chin-ups, Bench press, Dips)
  • It’ll take around an hour.
  • Read this and then start with the ‘Big 3′ routine.
  • If  you’re not new to barbells then check out, Which Routine is for Me?

2. Your training times can vary. Some people train fasted, some in the afternoon and others in the evening. You can even vary your training times. The only requirement is that you have enough time after you train to eat before going to bed. Meal timing examples here.

3. Can’t get to a gym? Use bodyweight exercises and workout at home for now. Example in the FAQ here.

4. Don’t bother with cardio. (Justification: ‘On Cardio for the Physique-Focused Trainee)

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Tips for success

As I’ve worked with a lot of people I know the mistakes that people often make. Here are my top tips to avoid making them:

  1. Don’t neglect tracking
  2. Keep to the plan - it works! Don’t make the classic mistake of trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
  3. Use the guides on the site properly. Get a pen and paper and figure it out.
  4. Cook your meals for the fastest gains. It’s much easier to know what you are eating that way. Eat the same meals frequently and often for ease. – This way you only have to count the macros in each of your favourite meals once.
  5. Keep it simple. There are more detailed articles on the site for when the time comes which you can access on the menu bar, but for now stick with this simple set-up first.
    • People fail their diets because they make things too complicated initially. Always make the smallest changes you can to bring about progress.
  6. Get support:
    • Read the FAQ. A whole lotta love has gone into that baby.
    • Can’t find an answer? Use the comments on the site, 6000+ answered so far.
    • Use the Facebook page. Join the community.
    • Sign-up to Fitocracy.com log your workouts, compare & get motivated by the awesome supportive community there.
  7. Educate yourself. Many people will tell you that not eating breakfast is bad, or that if you don’t eat for 16 hours your muscles will fall off. Arm yourself with the facts. Martin’s Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked article is a great place to start.

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

Thanks for reading and good luck! – Andy.

Andy MorganIntermittent Fasting & Leangains – Step by Step Guide

845 Comments on “Intermittent Fasting & Leangains – Step by Step Guide”

  1. Pattie

    Hi Andy!

    I have a sleep question. I am used to eating/snacking before bed (& then sleep like the dead). My feeding window is 7 am -5 pm (I am a girl) – skipping breakfast is out of the question for me. Past 3 days I’ve had interupted sleep (tossing & turning as well) due to hunger. Will I get used to not eating before bed & things will settle down? Also how long can I go on interupted sleep before things get really bad? Thanks, pattie

  2. aziatik

    Morning Andy, I’m a week into an intermittent fasting experiment but I find I cannot skip having pineapple in the morning to get me going. How counterproductive is this if I have some fruit and coffee, a bit of whey before training at noon, a bit of whey after training at 2 then my meals at around 4 and 9? I train 5x per week using the Outlaw Way and am currently sitting at 20% body fat, looking to get down to about 15%. Next week I will be subbing out the whey for BCAA’s and possibly dropping the coffee.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Aziatik, thanks for the first time comment.
      I think I have my thoughts on this covered in the post “If it ain’t broken…”, so if you could give that a read first so that I know you know my thoughts on a more fundamental point, that’d be appreciated and probably helpful to you.
      Then, to answer your question, basically it depends on how doing such things affect calorie balance, then macros, then micros. Timing considerations are fourth on the list of importance. More background on that in the post, “The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance”.

      If you have any questions, let me know.

  3. Alex

    Great update Andy! Thanks for all your effort, which is truly awesome.

    Question: I’m on my cut and I love fruits, eat them a lot (4-5 apples a day,1-2 bananas), but fat burning got slower. Should i consider decreasing fruit intake to minimize insulin spiking, or it’s ok while it hits daily macros?

    Thanks

  4. jahan

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the great knowledge you have provided and made it simple for an average joe. i like to know if there is any scientific reason for the no. 16 (16 hr fast), can fasting state hours be any less?
    and does the fat burning occurs during the fasted state or because of exercising during fasted state?

    thanks,

    Jahan

  5. Miguel

    Hello Andy,
    Amazing site! Thanks to your information I have gain in lean mass. Now however I am about to undergo my cutting phase program. I have a question about how I should calculate a rough amount for my calorie intake to base my cutting diet off. My weight is currently 77kg while my lean mass is 60kg, I do weight training 3x a week. I want my weight to be in the 67-72kg range in september. My question is do I calculate a rough number of calories based on my lean mass or my weight? I think I’ve read it somewhere in your site but I’ve forgotten to bookmark it. If its not too much trouble for you to answer I’d really appreciate it thank you.

  6. Drew

    Hi Andy,

    Thank you so much for this site. I do have a question, though I may just need to rework my brain. I ENJOY working out (mostly heavy-lifting but Cross-fit with my friends is a blast) and I LOVE running (I’ve run everything from 5ks to 50ks). When I see the recommendation to only workout 3 times a week, I see myself getting bored. Is there a way to adapt IFing diet to a training plan that is more along the lines of 4-5 days of training (read heavy-lifting) and 3-4 days of running? My runs are mostly for enjoyment so they would mostly fall in the category of moderate cardio although I have been known to do sprint intervals from time to time. I’m currently an unemployed single father, so I do a lot of my own cooking, I sleep 8-9 hours a night, and rest is fairly easy to come by.

    Thank you, and sorry if I missed my answer already on your site.

  7. B. Lejon

    Hi Andy!

    I wonder what you suggest to do when all the calorie/macro numbers is ok, training is going ok, weightloss is going ok and then around 10-12% bf something changes, energy is gone and weightloss very slow or nonexistent.

    I guess this is the leptin level that has crashed but how do you raise leptin when already have 3 “high” carb days? Raise carbs even more? Ad refeed days on non training day(s)? What do you do Andy?

    Can’t seem to find info on this your site…dieting under 10% that is or you and you clients don’t have this problem? Down to around 10-12% bf is childsplay really, it’s not until then it becomes dieting if you ask me. It doesn’t really mather if I just came of a diet break, my body wont go under 10% without making a lot of problems that I need to learn to work around somehow.

    Would like to know your view on this if that’s ok.

    Thanks Andy!

      1. B. Lejon

        As I wrote in my question “It doesn’t really mather if I just came of a diet break, my body wont go under 10% without making a lot of problems”

        What happens is that my energy levels dies, my weightloss stops and a brutal hunger sets in.

        So what I usually do is going on a diet break, put on a couple of pounds and go back at it.

        What then happens is that at the same weight, same bf% the same problems comes back again, it’s like I’m walking in circles.

        Am I really going to have another diet break and hoping to get a different result next time?

        Thanks for sharing your knowledge Andy!

          1. B. Lejon

            Yes, I also thought that maybe I had a too big deficit but the thing is…

            Before this “stahl” I lose around a pound a week and everything goes quite smooth almost without a hint of hunger until I reach a nice lean state at around 10-12% bf, as I wrote before, this is childsplay and not hard at all, no hunger, full of energy for weeks without any problems. If my calories was ok before then, how can my calorie demand raise when my body weigh less without any change in my training. This is the problem I’ve been facing for quite a while now.

            Well, my bet on this is “leptin control”, I need to up my refeeds with carbs a bit and raise my leptin level to boost my metabolism and give “green light” for further fatburning insted of dieting in starvation mode that I go in to with low leptin levels cirulating in body. I think my current refeeds are not powerfull enough to raise my leptin level.

            I will try bigger refeeds…raise my carbs a bit.

            Again, thanks Andy for sharing your knowledge!

            I will read your new post now :)

            1. Andy Morgan

              “If my calories was ok before then, how can my calorie demand raise when my body weigh less without any change in my training.”
              It hasn’t. Your body is just pissed off at you for dieting and is ramping up hunger in retaliation. Given what you’ve said, if you’re hungry a lot and sure you’re in a slight deficit, and have taken diet breaks, and the fat isn’t coming off (weight isn’t changing), then it’s probably the whoosh effect waiting to happen.

              I really would not worry about the hormonal mechanics of the situation until you have the practical implementation nailed.

            2. B. Lejon

              I’m not hungry a lot/often.

              It’s like this:
              My deficit is ok for weeks/months, lose around a pound a week or about 5 pounds a month, training is going well, everything is well.

              Then when I get down to a lean state somethings just happens.

              First, (before any hunger comes), my energy levels start to fall and don’t stop to decrease unitl completely gone. Then, when my power is gone both mental and physical the hunger comes and this hunger is unstoppable no mather how much I eat and how full my stomach is. I do not think the hunger is not coming from a low deficit, I’m pretty sure the hunger is coming from LOW LEVELS OF LEPTIN in my body because when I have lower bodyfat the leptin is low in my body and this start all of these problems I always face when getting down to low bf%.

              What I do then is eat (sometimes more and sometimes less) and often rest from training to get back on track, a complete break from training and dieting. Then a week or two later sometimes longer I start again and this goes around and around. These problems never comes until I’m lean but I do not want to be only lean, I want to be ripped to the bones at 5-6% bf so I need to work around this sticking point I have.

              I’m now going to try to control my leptin level with extra carbs on top of my “main calories”and see if this method keeps me from stalling and keeping me energized.

              I guess all I can say now is that give me a couple of months and let me try this and then I will come back and let you know if I for the first time can come under 10% and stay there without these energy drops and the mental hunger that comes with it.

              This is only my own experience I’m talking about. I’m not a coach, I do not have clients, I just go from my own body and how I feel. Give me a couple of months and I will let you know how it went.

              So before I try anything else I need to try this because controling leptin to me makes more sense than anything else right now, It’s like it’s calling for me no, let me refrase that it’s TELLING me to do it, NOW.

              Thanks Andy! I never heard of the whoosh effect, gonna check it out, I have little faith that it will change my mind though ;)

              I’ll be back in a couple of months…

              Peace!

  8. lavinad

    HI there. Really good web page by the way. I just want your view on morning training. I train between 6.30am and 7.30am. If I eat my meals between 1pm and 9pm does that mean I should not take a protein shake after training? Thanks

  9. G1S1

    Hi Andy,

    i have a quick question. I want to know if it is possible to use IF when i play rugby and go to gym. My weeks will look like this: Mo->Gym, TU->Rugby, WE->Gym, THU->Rugby,FR->Gym,SA->FREE, SU->Free. And if yes should there be a carb deficit only on Saturday and Sunday or is it also possible to make a little deficit on the rugby days?

    Thank you very much for this nice page.

  10. Susan

    Hi Andy, I have been or acting intermittent fasting for over a month now. I am having some serious issues with constipation. I am taking in one oz of water per body lb, psyllium husk, 30+ g of fiber yet still no improvement. Am I ingesting too much protein or is it the intermittent fasting? I’m taking in about 100-120g of protein and my lean body mass is 90lbs. My exercise is great but I’m actually gaining weight because nothing is leaving my system!

  11. Kalin Stoev

    Hi Andy, I just wanted to say thanks for putting up the guide for IF. I have been doing it for a while and even though I messed up the formula a bit I am still getting some good results. Thanks again for doing the work.

  12. Shawn

    YOu asked for people to comment if they found typos. In #2, “Learn what we’re going to do different” the sub-headline reads ‘Shift the focus to diet rather then training.’ You are making a comparison, so THAN is the proper word. Cheers.

  13. Ryan

    Hi Andy. I work in construction so I set my bmr multiplier as 1.55 because I’m fairly active. On a weekend for me rest means rest(lounging around very sedentary). Should one adjust Saturday and Sunday to be a 1.2 multiplier in this instance or should it remain constant at 1.55? This was confusing me a little

    1. Andy Morgan

      When using a multiplier you’ll want to keep it consistent across your week.
      You could adjust on a per day basis, but that quickly can get complicated and isn’t advised for anyone not already very familiar with things.

  14. iggy

    Hey mate! just a question, i’ve just started my IF and trying to keep it real simple (no food till 1pm daily, just water and coffee. then my ‘feeding’ window is from say 2pm till 9pm). now my question is if it matters if I eat pre-workout or post workout? should i try to push my workouts to the fasting period or to say mid-feeding zone? what is better? (i workout mon/wed/fri and i’ve stopped doing cardio) cheers!

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  16. mark

    hi andy, thanks for your wonderful work on this website. i’ve been doing leangains for 5 weeks. hitting my macros, eating clean. tracking everything even weighing my food. i’ve lost only 5 lbs. (considering how overweight i am, too slow for my liking).
    when i did a checkpoint, i noticed that I loss inches everywhere (arms, chest, shoulder, hamstring) but my waistline (same), i look terrible and saggy compared to my 7 meals bodybuilding style diet last october. my strengths are constantly going up though (deadlifts, bench, squat and chinups are all up). This is the strongest i’ve ever been.
    question: is this normal progress? will this continue? i dont mind getting smaller but i wish to trim down waist more than anything else.
    cheers!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Mark, it’s most likely that you’ve simply measured your chest/back wrong (which is natural, cause it can be easy to get the tape stuck at a funny angle when carrying around a lot of extra weight). Or it could be that you’re particularly bloated on the day you took the measurements – constipation, water, etc.

  17. Tesi

    Hi Andy, thanks so much for all the info you share.
    I have big doubt.
    In one of your posts you say this :

    The longer the time you are without food, the more fat you burn. However the type of fat the body uses changes over time. The body’s ability to mobilize sufficient fatty acids from subcutaneous fat (the fat under the skin that makes you look fat) reaches a limit around the 10-30 hour mark.

    What exactly do you mean by “10-30 hour mark”? sorry it is not very clear to me…

    Is it “OK” to fast for up 30 hours? I am just trying the intermittent fast to make sense to me…

    Look forward to your response and thanks so much again!

  18. Jasmin

    Hi Andy,

    Do you have any readings or links you can point me to where I.F. is studied in women? I’ve been reading online that it isn’t the best plan for women (due to hormones, cravings, fasting hours). I also noticed it’s hard to find women’s opinion on the topic online (even in your testimonials, not many women). I wonder if this is something women aren’t interested in or doesn’t work for them?

    I think the 8 hour feeding window would be perfect for my lifestyle (I’m not a huge breakfast person and I basically eat like that anyhow right now, probably a 10 hour feeding window but I can cut to 8 I’m sure, ditch the evening snacks). I’m getting some conflicting information on this topic, don’t really know where to turn

    PS: read through the site and got my macros sorted out. I have experience in weight/barbell training. I’ve always been petite but I think it’s getting harder to maintain as I age (I’m in my 30′s, 5’2″, 118lb, 28% body fat Dexa scan) so I’m looking to cut. I’m not too picky on the “numbers” but the belly ponch has got to go

    Thanks,
    Jasmin

    1. Andy Morgan

      The fact that you’re asking would lead me to guess that you’ve been sold on the idea that women are especially different and they need totally different plans, which is typical of the industry. You don’t. Just start here and work through the nutritional hierarchy of importance. If you skip breakfast and don’t get on well with it, start eating it again. Nothing else needs to change.

      1. Carol Streeter

        I’m 49 & a competitive natural bodybuilder.
        I started using ‘if’ last January (2013) with the intention of trying it out for a couple of months. I stuck with it for the year, including the lead up to NPA British Bodybuilding championships, which I won. Over the year I gained muscle mass and reduced body fat. It was my easiest comp diet to date.

  19. Huy

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for blog, great information and resource. This may be a simple question, but for the meals do you keep the ratios the same? For example per my calculations I am suppose to eat 140g of protein, 80g of fat, and 230g of carbs. Should each meal be in equal proportion? Also, I workout to Beachbody programs like P90X and Les Mils Combat which they do 6 days a week training, do i need to adjust the diet because of that?

    thanks!

  20. Sunny

    SORRY LAST QUESTION

    If im taking a week off of training but not considering this a diet break (as i would be doing it soon after) but i just want tio eat clean should i eat at maintenance or should i stick to whatever calorie deficit/surplus i am currenty doing?

    THNX AGAIN ANDY

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