Intermittent Fasting & Leangains – Step by Step Guide

Do you look the same you did six months ago?

Haven’t had the success you thought you would following the advice you read in the magazines? Perhaps you’ve just stumbled upon this without wasting your time on that stuff before. Either way, welcome.

The methods described below will help you get ripped, without all the training, meal management, and expensive supplements you probably think you need.

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. So, are you going to keep spinning your wheels or dare to try something new?

Steps to Success:

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

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.


1. Get Motivated – Results

Are you thinking you can’t do this? Have a quick look at this results gallery below. For every person you see there are 100 times more scattered throughout the internet. These are regular people that 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. Stop reading right now and click. Self belief is important.


2. Learn What We’re Going To Do Different

1. Shift the focus to diet rather than training.

For a lot of people the emphasis on training over diet is what has stopped them seeing the changes they have worked so hard for. 

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.

More info: Quick Introduction: Intermittent Fasting, ‘Leangains’ and the Benefits.


3. Try the Simple Set-Up

Make the smallest changes you can to bring about progress. Stick with this simple set-up first, before adding in unnecessary complication. This guide will get you going.

The Diet

Intermittent Fasting Diet Set Up

  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. 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 the coffee/s is fine.)
    • If you have irregular work hours/schedule see this guide.
  3. Getting it right 90% of the time is good enough.
    • Somedays 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 a rest-days.

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 it.

  1. Strength-train 3 days a week.
    • I believe barbells are the most effective for building strength and muscle mass so I strongly recommend them. (Reasons: “Why Barbells?“)
    • Do big compound movements and forget about the rest for now. (Squat, Deadlift, Press, Chin-ups, Benchpress, Dips)
    • It’ll take around an hour.
  2. Use correct form so that you build yourself in the fastest, safest way.
    • Read the book ‘Starting Strength‘.
    • Watch Mark Rippetoe’s coaching videos if you are unsure of form. (If you’re going to spend 3 hours in the gym a week, it makes sense to spend an hour or two reading about what you should be doing in there. Very few people do this though.)
    • Hire a trainer if you’re unsure. It can be tell the good trainers from the bad, certificates don’t mean much. My guide on how to decide is here.
  3. 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 at least enough time after you train to eat before going to bed. For a detailed timing guide check out Martin’s ‘Leangains Guide‘.
  4. Can’t get to a gym? Use bodyweight exercises and workout at home, but bear in mind that you are likely to plateau at some point.
    • Here are bodyweight exercise articles by Jason Ferruggia and Mark Sisson.
    • Use Youtube too see how to perform exercises you don’t know.

To get the maximum return on your gym time, basically:

  • New to barbells? Do the Squat/Deadlift/Bench-press every session for the first 2-3 months to maximize gains. You don’t need the recovery time that advanced trainees need because you haven’t learned to push yourself to the point of being sore for days after training yet. Don’t mess around with split routines.
  • Barbell training experience? Consider some form of split routine. Details on how to choose what routine you should be using are in the detailed guide below. All training questions posted as comments will be answered there also.

4. 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. Keep to the plan. - It works! Don’t make the classic mistake of trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
  2. Use the guides on the site. Get a pen and paper and figure it out.
  3. Cook your meals for the fastest gains. It’s much easier to know what you are eating that way. – Abs are made in the kitchen.
  4. Eat the same meals frequently and often for ease and success. – This way you only have to count the macros in each of your favorite meals once.
  5. 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. 12,000+ 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.
  6. 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.

5. Leangains Guide – Detailed Set-Up Guides

Ok, so have you acted on the simple set-up above?  Time to get a little more detailed then. I’ve put all the diet and training guides in one place. This includes How to Calculate Your Macros, How to Track Your Progress, How to Choose a Training Program… basically everything you need.

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The guides on this site have helped thousands of people to achieve their physique goals. However chasing physique goals can become an obsession. If you want to take the guess work out of things I offer personal consultationsI have helped hundreds of busy people get ripped without it taking over their lives.

Thanks for reading and good luck! – Andy.

837 thoughts on “Intermittent Fasting & Leangains – Step by Step Guide

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

      • 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!

          • 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 :)

            • “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.

            • 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!

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

    • 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Pingback: Coaching Lessons 3# - One bite at a time... | RippedBody.jp

  12. 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!

    • 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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

    • 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.

      • 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.

  15. 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!

  16. 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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