leangains diet faq

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve answered around 6000 questions in the comments on the site so far so I’ve got a pretty good idea on what people ask the most often. Here you’ll find detailed answers to your questions, or links to articles that do.

I’m always updating and adding to this page. You can keep up with those updates on the sidebar of the home page.

Regarding food specifics:

No, but as alcohol has calories it has the potential to screw everything up. Why? Dietary fat can be easily stored if you go over your calorie budget for the day. On the occasions that you are going to drink, some very general rules that will take you a long way:

  • Keep dietary fat intake low on this day.
  • Drinking beer? Make it a training day.
  • Drinking diet mixers and spirits? Make it a rest day.

I’ve written a guide to drinking alcohol on a diet here with details and reasons for the above. Skip to sections on: Once a week moderate to ‘hard’ drinking or Drinking in moderation a few times a week. Do not abuse the guide and use it as an excuse for excessive alcohol consumption or you will just screw up your progress.

Dietary fiber intake is important. It…

  • Increases food volume without increasing caloric content, providing satiety which may reduce appetite.
  • Attracts water and forms a viscous gel during digestion, slowing the emptying of the stomach and intestinal transit, shielding carbohydrates from enzymes, and delaying absorption of glucose,[62] which lowers variance in blood sugar levels
  • Lowers total and LDL cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Regulates blood sugar, which may reduce glucose and insulin levels in diabetic patients and may lower risk of diabetes[63]
  • Speeds the passage of foods through the digestive system, which facilitates regular defecation
  • Adds bulk to the stool, which alleviates constipation
  • Balances intestinal pH[64] and stimulates intestinal fermentation production of short-chain fatty acids, which may reduce risk of colorectal cancer

Source: Wikipedia, “Dietary Fiber”

Clearly then fiber is a good thing. However, it’s also possible to have too much, the side effects being gas, diarrhoea, constipation and bloating*. Keep between the following numbers and you’ll be fine.

General Daily Fibre Intake Guidelines:

  • Minimum –  20g/25g for women and men respectively.
  • Maximum – 20% of your carb intake.

Further Reading: Fibre – Nature’s Broom by Lyle McDonald.

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*Roid Gut: (Irrelevant, but fun fact)

You may have noticed that many pro-bodybuilders have distended abdomens, yet still have abs. This is usually from the steroid/growth hormone that has made not only their muscles but their internal organs grow also. However another way people sometimes get this roid-gutlook is when they try to bulk using only “clean foods” leading to a huge fibre intake and bloated intestines.

Key Points:

  • As long as you don’t neglect fruit and vegetables, as long as you make your carb choices fit your macros you will not affect your diet. This is the IIFYM philosophy, more of which you can read about in the post, Is Clean Eating a Scam? – Clean Eating vs IIFYM.
  • Less refined foods will keep you fuller for longer. Potatoes are probably the most filling, followed by rice and pasta. (Something like sugary cereal will not keep you very full for long.)
  • The Glycemic Index is irrelevant in the context of a mixed food meal as digestion and absorption will be slowed. Brown vs white rice/pasta/bread is a taste issue, not something that will affect your results.

Mike Menter on Carbs

…if you are on a well balanced diet and have a calorie deficit in your daily budget, it will not hurt your weight loss efforts to eat refined carbohydrates such as ice cream or candy bars. Actually, the times “refined” and “unrefined” don’t refer to the carbohydrates, as the chemical formula for most carbs we consume is the same, but the food in which the carbs are contained.

If all we consumed were predominantly refined foods, we would end up with an imbalanced diet, since most refined foods contain few minerals and vitamins. But if we’re on a well-balanced diet, it doesn’t really matter where we get our carbohydrates, since they all end up as glucose by the time they get to our bloodstream anyway.

The last two weeks before the 1979 Mr. Olympia, I was consuming more then 200g of carbs a day — I had pancakes three times a week and ice cream almost every daily. I didn’t do this recklessly however; it kept my daily caloric intake below…

In general then, after you’ve had your fruit and veggies for the day just make sure you get most of your carbs from whole foods (pasta, rice, bread, potatoes etc…) 80% of the time and you’ll be fine. If you wish to get geekier than that then see the glucose vs. sucrose vs. fructose part of this article by Martin Berkhan.

Carbs are carbs are carbs. They have energy. There is no escaping this. I tell people not to count the green vegetables because it makes life easier. Fruits have carbs, some more than others. Anything you’re going to eat regularly is worth counting. Things you are only going to eat occasionally are probably not worth counting.

I know that some people will now take this to mean, “Ok if I’m only going to eat some fruits occasionally, it’s ok I won’t count them. So I’ll eat 5 bananas on Mondays, a whole watermelon on Tuesdays, a bunch of grapes on Wednesdays… But it’s all OK because I only eat the one kind of fruit occasionally (once a week)!”

…But then these are the kind of people who always look for shortcuts. They might make great accountants hiding your savings away from the tax-man, but there’s no shortcuts in the energy equation. They’re only going to shoot themselves in the foot. Are you?

Fine. They’re not as good as fresh veggies as they lose their nutrients but better then nothing (as is the way with most single men). Most people use frozen veg as it’s easy to prepare. However if you get a little steamer for the microwave then fresh vegetables can be cooked in just minutes also so consider that.

Microwave steamer

Microwave steamers make eating healthy easy. Just pour water in the bottom, add chopped veggies on top and then put it in the microwave for a minute or two.

Simply, if your urine is yellow then drink more – Five clear urinations a day is sports-nutrition expert Lyle McDonald’s guideline.

Of all the reason’s for this, the one you care about most is that it will help with fat burning. The liver plays an important role in fat metabolism. If I have understood correctly, if you don’t drink enough water then the kidneys can’t function at full capacity and thus the liver has to work to help them, decreasing the rate which fat can be metabolised.

We lose water at night so you’ll definitely want to drink a good few glasses to re-hydrate in the morning.

Don’t set a target water intake per day as you’ll likely be over and have to wake up to go to the toilet at night, or you’ll be under and feel dehydrated (which can disturb sleep also).

A Word On Sleep:

If you’re tapering your carb intake down as I suggest on the days that you don’t train (and eating more carbs on the days you do), you’ll urinate more on the rest days. This is because the body takes in 3-4g of water per gram of carbs that we eat and flushes it out when we don’t. (Fluctuating water balance is why I recommend you take your weight as an average over the week.)

If you find yourself waking in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, taper your intake down towards the end of the day.

Yes, you can drink diet soda and it will not affect your diet despite what the Youtube videos say.

Tea and coffee contain no calories so they are fine. A splash of milk in your coffee(s) in the mornings is fine too, but don’t put sugar in there. Try and keep the total calories under 50kCal.

If you are concerned about the media hype surrounding sweeteners/aspartame etc. and health issues:

“I personally could not find any research showing a causal relationship between artificially sweetened soft drinks and weight gain, let alone research indicating a thyroid-mediated mechanism for this phenomenon. Among the research that does exist, the majority of studies lasting beyond the acute phase have demonstrated the superior effectiveness of artificially sweetened beverages to sugar-sweetened ones for weight loss. Therefore, the claim that diet soft drinks cause weight gain is nothing but a false alarm.”  – Alan Aragon, from his brilliant monthly Research Review.

Yes, counting the fat content of certain meals can be tough, this mainly comes with meat.

The cut of meat will determine the fat content. There is no single answer for the question, “How many grams of fat are there in a 200g/~8oz cut of steak?”

Secondly, there’s the cooking method to consider. If you’re frying, how do you know how much gets absorbed?

Thirdly, what about the net result after you’ve cooked it? The fat content in meat uncooked and cooked can be different. Grill some sausages and poke holes in them and have a look at all the fat that pours out and you’ll see what I mean.

I don’t have a clever answer for you here or simplification. We’ve got to make our best guess and then just be consistent with that guess.

Consider using an online calculator to help. Consider Wolfram Alpha or MyFitnessPal.

Remember: If you are consistently wrong but track and adjust relatively then it doesn’t matter in the long run as the systematic error will take care of itself.

The evidence for whether high salt intake is good or bad for health is inconclusive. However, unless you are eating a diet very high in junk food your salt intake overall is not likely to be a concern.

Changes in salt intake in the short term however can bring with them weight fluctuations.

So if you are a bodybuilder or model with a competition or shoot in a few days then you’ll want to watch your intake. Only relative changes in sodium will increase your water retention, not overall consumption. So if you suddenly increase your sodium intake you will bloat; if you suddenly decrease your sodium intake you will lose water. The body adjusts to a set-point after time. (A few days I believe.)

So bodybuilders, whom need to look extra lean on one particular day, cutting sodium two weeks before a competition to lose water is a bad strategy, because their body will have re-adjusted to a set-point by that two week mark and nothing will have changed overall.

Cutting sodium intake 2/3 days out to look extra lean is used by some competitors, but for the regular dieter salt intake manipulation is not a weight loss strategy – the human body out-smarts our diet-tricks in the end.

*I don’t recommend you mess with salt intake to look lean on any particular day anyway. Reducing intake is just as likely (if not more so) to reduce the water inside of the muscles also, leaving you looking flat.

Certainly not. However you do need to weigh some things, especially at the start. As a general guide, weigh your un-cooked meats and carbs and eyeball everything else. I weigh my rice, pasta, potatoes and meats, and just look on the packets for the macronutrient information for others. Get a small electronic kitchen scale. I never weigh vegetables.

Hunger related:

Snacking won’t make a difference to your diet as you make it fit your macros. However, it’s probably better not to as it threatens diet adherence because generally snacking just makes hunger more persistent.

Hunger pangs will come and go when dieting. Keeping busy will certainly help.

No, it’s just a case of your body adjusting. This whole website is littered with comments from people amazed at how they have adjusted and are feeling great. Our ancestors did this and so can you. The only difference so far is the length of time clients take to adjust. Some are fine straight away, for others it takes up to 10 days. Typically though it is 4-7 days.

Firstly, nearly everyone feels like this when they start. Typically your stomach will adjust to the large quantity of food within two weeks. In the meantime choosing more dense carb sources (some yummy cereal for example) is a good idea.

Presuming you have calculated your macros correctly, if you eat less you will have too much of a deficit and risk muscle loss; not have the energy needs to recover from your workouts; have an accelerated rate of metabolic adaptation (slow-down) increasing diet rebound risk.

When you skip breakfast for the first time your body takes a while to adjust to this. Give yourself 7-10 days and hunger in the morning is usually no longer an issue. Just make sure that you keep your other meal times consistent, lunch and dinner for example.

If you are already doing this then the most common culprit for hunger is bad food choices, particularly for the last meal before bed. Tips in order they should be tried and implemented:

  • Cut down on any alcohol intake so that you can use those calories for food.
  • Switch from shakes or liquid foods (like juice and protein powder) to real food.
  • Eat a slow-digesting protein like eggs or cottage cheese, or eat meat with plenty fibrous green vegetables.
  • Switch from refined carbohydrates to foods like potatoes or pasta for your carb sources. Potatoes tend to be the most filling, at ~15g of carbs per 100g weight raw.
  • Coffee in the morning can blunt appetite.
  • Keep busy. An idle mind will wander and think of food.
  • Put your fish oil supplementation with this last meal as fats slow digestion (a minor point).

Timing / Schedule:

“Healthy sleep time” as you phrase it is going to depend on the individual. Generally this is 7-9 hours of sleep for most people. You can test this by sleeping without an alarm clock for consecutive days and taking an average – it can also be argued that if you have to wake up with an alarm clock then you’re not getting enough. – Sure, not a very practical suggestion for many, but true.

Type of Sleep

  • Sleep needs to be the deep, restorative kind.
  • So, broken up sleep (afternoon naps) aren’t ideal.
  • Sleep with distractions for your brain (TV on, people coming and going, neighbours lawnmower going next door)… isn’t ideal.
  • Sleeping at completely different times will mess with your body’s hormonal patterns and isn’t ideal.

The above is why shift workers constantly look knackered.

So what about fat loss then?

Well, there was this one study (can’t recall it, someone please find it and I’ll edit this comment) where they purposefully disrupted the sleep of the subjects so they were only getting ~4 hours sleep, and were deprived of the deep kind, a night. If I remember correctly, this blunted fat burning by around 50%. I can’t remember whether that was just during the night period or for the entire day. (If I find that study I’ll update this for you.) But the take home point is – sleep, the deep, uninterrupted kind is important for fat loss.

Sleep requirements are variable

  • On mentally and physically draining days you’ll need more.
  • When starting a training program, people find they need more.
  • Increase workout intensity and you’ll likely need more.
  • When cutting, people generally find they need more also. (The energy deficit is a recovery deficit and the body seems to want to compensate somewhat with sleep.)

Fortunately the readers of my ramblings on this blog tend to be quite an educated bunch, so I’m sure someone will correct me on my mistakes above. If/when they do I’ll come back and correct this.

Research to date has shown that meal frequency really isn’t as important as we once thought. However, just as one meal a day may not be optimal for muscle protein synthesis, eating 5-6 meals a day isn’t necessary either, and can be detrimental to your diet success given the extra effort needed with meal planning and preparation. I suggest you go somewhere in-between.

I personally eat two meals a day. I give most clients a two meal set up also, as it’s simple, low prep, makes counting easy, and is clearly very effective.

In the case of afternoon training where there will be a few hours between the end of your training session and dinner then it’s probably a good idea to have a protein shake and some carbs – like a banana perhaps. Again, this could be real food but I shoot for ease of execution every time. The best diet is the one you can keep after all.

No. The key here is consistency. Just because you miss one meal time, doesn’t mean you adjust the other. Your hormones get used to when you usually eat, so eat as close as possible to that time. Keep things as regular as possible, but don’t stress the occasional day when timing is off.

Sleep and stress elements should not be underestimated in their ability to interfere with a diet.

Sleep

  • You need to get a consistent 7-9 hours sleep a night for fat loss to work well. There is individual variance – some people need more than others – ideally you should be able to wake up without an alarm.
  • Sleep deficits cannot be ‘recovered’ over the weekend with a long rest.

Stress

Lack of sleep, weight training and any other activities are stressors to the body. Work and family stresses, though psychological, have physiological consequences.

Adding in more stress to this equation by having a calorie deficit and/or increasing activity is not a good idea when the sleep and stress elements are not in place.

It can cause significant stalls in weight loss, increase moodiness, and generally ramp up all the other negative effects of dieting.

As for working with clients, these things throw a significant spanner into the works when it comes to the predictability of things. Which bugs me, because you’ll be bugging me to get the fat loss moving, and there may be a point where I’ve tried several things but my conclusion will be – get more sleep, lower stress, which as a client I can understand being a frustrating conclusion. This is why I insist that customers have those elements in place before we work together.

Doing less, can sometimes be just the thing that you need. Don’t fight gravity.

Jason Ferruggia explains the sleep issue well,

“When you’re short on sleep your insulin sensitivity decreases and your cortisol goes up. Both things lead to less than optimal fat loss. You also miss out on the critically important Growth Hormone boost that comes each night during deep sleep. If you want to lose more fat you have to get more sleep. Most people will ignore this and some of you are probably reading this at 2am. Unfortunately this just might be the most important thing on the whole list. More sleep improves EVERYTHING. Make it a priority.”

“What do I do if my work schedule doesn’t allow for a consistent feeding window?”

We do the best we can. First it’s important to understand a few fundamental points:

1. The reason that we try to keep the meal timing consistent is that the body regulates to our usual feeding times and tells us to eat (by dumping the hunger hormone, ghrelin, into our system) at these times. This means that we can skip breakfast everyday and experience no hunger in the morning. This doesn’t just have to be breakfast. Practically this is useful because it means we can eat just 2 (or 3) meals in a shorter space of time and thus feel satisfied despite dieting.

2. When we eat at different times the body doesn’t get the chance to regulate to this, meaning that we’ll get hungry at more random times. – The penalty is hunger, nothing more. This is an important point when considering your set-up.

3. There is nothing magic about having a 16 hour fasting window. I see people eat dinner an hour later than then had scheduled, panic, and this shift their lunch the next day an hour later so as not to “break the 16 hour rule”. – Bullshit. Totally backwards. In fact by doing this you upset the ghrelin rhythm if anything. – In that situation you’re best to not adjust anything the next day.

4. Training can be at any time as long as you can have one meal after, before starting the fast.

5. The feeding window can be longer some days and shorter on others, but they must always overlap.

So when we put this together for the person that has a varied schedule, what have we got?

  • If possible, then keep at least one meal at the same time every day and let the other be flexible.
  • If thats’s not possible then just keep the meals in the same rough time of day. i.e. The Lunch/Dinner timeframe.
  • If it’s not possible to eat at your regular times due to your shift schedule, preference, or social circumstances at all then don’t worry about it, it isn’t going to affect your progress. Note the nutritional hierarchy of importance:

Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance Pyramid

Supplements:

What matters is meeting the EPA and DHA numbers, not the quantity of oil.

Fish oil supplement manufacturers usually take advantage of our ignorance here. Research suggests around 2g EPA and 1.5g DHA a day is optimal and has a range of benefits.

Low quality supplements will have a very small dose of EPA/DHA in them, meaning that a whole lot of soft-gels have to be consumed to hit that target. Buy good quality fish oil. Look for those key ingredients.

Take them with your last meal of the day as fat slows the rate of digestion of a meal and keeps us feeling fuller for longer.

Indeed. I’m sorry if I have spooked you by not trying to sell you any. The truth is if you said to me that I were never allowed to take another supplement again it would not bother me. Nor should it bother you. To have success on this diet you do not need supplements. “You are what you eat.” There’s no magic in supplements.

Now, taking BCAAs may be optimal if you are to train fasted, and taking protein powder is convenient when the fridge is empty, but that doesn’t mean that you need them.

The supplement industry has us all convinced that we need things we don’t. I’ve written an article about this here. I include a simple and optional list for clients of supplements they may find useful. However this article by Martin Berkhan does a good job by itself.

Yes, but there is a time and a place for it.

Protein from real food (meat, fish, eggs, etc.) will keep you feeling full for longer, which is obviously a desirable thing when dieting.

Aside from satiety reasons, we want protein to be absorbed slowly so that our blood is still swimming with aminos during the fast, preventing muscle catabolism. In terms of rates of digestion, real food is slowest, then casein protein (5-7 hrs) then whey protein (2-3hrs). If we drink a protein shake as part of a meal then the digestion will be slowed significantly and could conceivably be double this (though there have been no studies that I know of that measure rates of digestion with mixed food meals).

Protein powder can be very convenient and I recommend that people get some because it helps with diet adherence on those times where you don’t quite have enough meat in the fridge and can’t be bothered to go out to the supermarket, for example.

  • Casein, being absorbed slowest is best with the last meal of the day.
  • Whey, being absorbed quickest is better with the other meals.

How much protein powder is too much? Well this is more a satiety thing than a health issue. Try to make your reliance on powders under half your protein target for the day.

Technical:

Firstly, note the important difference between grams per pound of weight, and grams per pound of lean body mass.

When considering recommendations, whether that be training, diet, or otherwise, it’s important to look at the bulk of the research available and then draw, rather then just choosing one study. To do so would be what’s known in the industry as, “cherry picking”.

We have a very ride range of evidence, and recommendations vary depending on study and circumstance: surplus, maintenance or deficit energy intake.

When in a deficit, protein needs are higher – the agreement on that is universal. The range seems to be from 1.5g/kgLBM through to 2.5g/kgLBM. I go with the latter because muscle maintenance is important and I like to be conservative, furthermore higher protein levels lead to greater satiety (and have higher TEF).

  • When at maintenance the requirements will be less.
  • When in a surplus the requirements will be less, however how much less is optimal to support muscle growth is still up for debate, so I tend to leave it at the same level.

The only circumstances where we think an even higher protein intake level would be beneficial for muscle growth is if drugs are used. (Steroids allow for greater rate of muscle protein synthesis.)

“Hey Andy, I have a question regarding protein turnover rates for someone like myself who is generally skinny and lean year round, but struggles to gain fat or muscle easily (usually due to not always eating like a man and cycling too much to/from work)

“I listen to a podcast and although he is very anti IF, I enjoy the other content. One thing he mentions was that for people leaning more towards the ectomorphic body type, he believes stimulating protein synthesis more regularly (every 2-3 hours) is important due to a higher protein turnover rate than endos/mesos. Could you shed some light on that for me please?” – Jamie

Jamie, thanks for the question. First thing to ask is, are his conclusions based on research or observation?

I’m not aware of any research that shows there is any BENEFIT of increased meal frequency for bulking, given that protein consumption stays high enough and there is enough of a calorie surplus generally to support growth in a bulk phase. Alan Aragon, who’s pretty heavily into the research and quite impartial in these areas, concludes that as long as there is a protein containing meal around the workout and enough for the day then that’s good enough and further splitting isn’t likely to give further noticeable benefits.

- That would be 3 meals a day for example, or BCAAs before a workout and then two big meals, or a pre-workout meal, training and PWO shake, then big dinner.

Not that observation isn’t relevant, but in the case of the “hardgainer” it has it’s flaws due to the uncontrolled nature of calorie reporting. Are these hardgainers not in fact just under-eating?

Also, it’s important to bear in mind (and often overlooked) that some people suffer huge NEAT variance when compared with others. So even thought there may be a theoretical calorie surplus, it may well be eaten up by increased NEAT – unconscious fidgeting etc.. I believe this has been observed to be up to 600kCal in some, and almost zero in others, in a ~900kCal surplus. (Can’t remember the exact figures off my head but it’s in the link at the end of this comment.)

So put this together and what do you get for yourself?

  1. You’re not tracking your exact calorie intake, and I know from when I met you that you don’t eat a lot of refined carbs, which means your overall carb intake will be low-medium unless you force it. So you may be eating less than you think.
  2. You may be someone with high NEAT variance.
  3. You have all the cycling on top.

Concluding advice:

  1. Track your calorie intake for a week.
  2. Increase your carb intake by a set amount.
  3. Increase your meal frequency from 2 meals to 3 so you don’t feel like ass when you teach your gym classes.
  4. Consider taking in more refined carb sources – Naughty carbs those Paleo kids don’t want you to have. Liquid carbs from sports drinks to hit your numbers and not bloat you.

Effectively you have the physical activity of an athlete, and you need to eat like one.

Though macro calculators can be a good start point for people, I see a lot of folks really mess things up by using them. An understanding of the principles involved is essential to getting things right for you. There is, and can never be, a single one size fits all formula. It is for this reason that I did not make a spreadsheet for people, nor link to any spreadsheet / calculator myself.

An understanding of the principles is needed to get things in the right ballpark initially. From there you’ll track and adjust.

For a full guide see: ‘The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance (for Fat Loss & Muscle Growth)

An example of a macro ratio would be, 40/40/20, p/c/f (Meaning that 40% of a person’s diet will come from protein, 40% from carbohydrate, 20% from fat.)

There is an idea out there that ‘golden’ macronutrient ratios exist that can transform a person’s physique.

I’m not a fan of this idea. I think it’s logically flawed and here’s why.

Metabolism is adaptive. Calorie needs increase over time (when bulking) and decrease over time (when cutting). Protein needs to be set (mainly) according to lean body mass, and fat also (to an extent).

Ratios are therefore a function of the stage of dieting, rather than something to target.

Though the example ratio above may be correct at one point in a person’s cut-bulk continuum, it will not be appropriate at all times. There will be overconsumption of carbs and too little protein during the latter stages of dieting (costing muscle mass), and over consumption of protein when bulking (costing unnecessary $$).

Set your macros according to, 1. Your energy needs, 2. lean body mass, 3. body type, 4. then personal preference.

Guide here, The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance – #2 Macros, Fibre & Alcohol.

(I think this idea comes from people trying to look at someone else’s calorie intake, their physique, see that it apparently worked well for them (and assume that they didn’t change it), then reverse engineer this to create a macro ratio and assume that this is somehow special.)

Creatine is the most scientifically significant supplement of the past thirty years. Despite having been studied to death there’s a lot of nonsense out there regarding the timing, dosing and types.

It’s safe for most people, has neuroprotective properties and can improve strength and performance.

Types

There are many types of creatine on sale, don’t get sucked into the marketing hype. Get the standard Creatine Monohydrate. Other types of creatine cost more but don’t work any better, and many are inferior.

Timing

Timing doesn’t matter. It doesn’t need to be taken with carbs, pre or post workout, and doesn’t need to be ‘loaded’.

Dosing

5g a day is fine. Sure, you could do a lean body mass calculation and get more specific but it’s so cheap it doesn’t matter in terms of cost, you’ll piss out any you don’t use so you don’t have to worry about overdosing, and let’s face it, are you really going to weigh out 4.2g of the stuff each time when you can just use a teaspoon?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking more is better, more just means fairly sudden diarrhoea and brown pants.

Bloating

Creatine can cause water weight gains. It can take up to 30 days for creatine to take full effect. For this reason I don’t recommend someone who is starting a diet to start (or stop) taking creatine because it can throw off your tracking. Tracking is important. Definitely do not change course of action half way through.

Full supplements guide here.

I’ve written about this in detail in the article 12 Weeks: What you can expect to achieve.

This is a good question. Let’s assume that your end goal is to get ripped abs; do you have enough muscle mass currently so that if you cut off the fat you’ll have the physique you desire? Have a look at this comparison picture of Christian Bale at approximately the same body fat but a very different base to see what I mean.

Christian Bale's Body - Machinist vs American Psycho

If you haven’t lifted before then your best bet is probably to focus on gaining strength to build your base. You’ll get a fat burning effect as well as build muscle. See my article Training Effectively: The Guide.

For those with lifting experience that are on the fence about what to do, you should probably do a cut first, even if you need to gain muscle mass to look how you would like ideally.

This sounds counter-logical but there is a very good reason for this. Leaner people can gain more muscle relative to fat when bulking. (As you get leaner, you become more leptin and insulin sensitive. Google ‘p-ratio’ for the science.)

You may find my article, Identifying Where You Are Now, Setting Realistic Goals, and Your Best Course Of Action useful.

I feel the Paleo diet, while the principles can certainly work for weight loss with people that don’t wish to count calories, is unnecessarily overly restrictive generally, and thus threatens long term diet adherence for most people.

You can most certainly be successful and still follow your Paleo diet, but you need to hit your carb numbers for the day. Fruits, rice, sweet or regular potatoes. If you’re lifting heavy then you need to get your carbs in.

There is a discussion on this in the comments on Jayson’s interview page.

What are dense carb sources on a Paleo diet? Here’s a link to an article Marc suggested in the comments.

No. Man up. If your great-grandfather were here to see the comparative ‘life of plenty’ that you are living right now, what do you think he would say about this? More in this article.

Or if you’d really like to put thing in perspective then I’d highly recommend the book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

Training is the catalyst for change; diet allows the change to happen.

Though I have stated elsewhere that diet is accounts for 70% of physique change, really the two are inseparable in my eyes.

I get a lot of questions regarding training. In many cases though these involve program design, which is highly dependent on the individual and required an understanding of the principles. For that, please see the Training Guides – Main Page.

Here are the most frequently asked training questions:

Training Questions:

Not necessarily.

For experienced trainees, strength increases or decreases roughly correlate to gains or losses of muscle mass respectively. When cutting, preserving muscle mass is the main goal, any gain in strength should be taken as a nice bonus, rather then taken for granted.

For beginners, there are gains in strength that will occur from neurological adaptation.

A period of time off lifting can lead to strength losses, but usually strength is regained quickly. A workofter a two-three week vacation you may be a little weaker in your workout, but you’ll quickly get back up to speed. I think this is due to neurological reasons.

Mechanical efficiency, also needs to be considered. The leaner we are, the less mechanical advantage we’ll have for the big compound lifts. – This is easiest to picture with the bench press. As fat is lost on the chest and back the bar has to travel further, so the work done to perform the rep is greater for the same weight. So a decrease from say, 100kg x 8reps in the bench press, to 100kg x 4reps in the bench press doesn’t necessarily indicate a reduction in lean body mass. The opposite is true as you get fatter.

Morning Training: consider a two meal set up; 50% of your calories at lunch, 50% at dinner. Evening Training: consider a two meal set up; ~35% of your calories at lunch, ~65% at dinner. Afternoon Training: consider a two meal and snack set up; ~30% of your calories at lunch, ~10% in a snack after your workout (a piece of fruit and a whey shake perhaps), and then the rest of your calories for dinner. Fasted Training: With the morning training example you will be training fasted. Take ~10g of BCAAs 10 minutes before training, then every 2 hours after until you eat your first meal of the day. This is how I set clients up where possible because it’s simple and effective. Martin Berkhan has written his own guide on this too.
Squatting, deadlifting, pressing – their moves are ab work.

The majority of trainees would be better served spending their time and effort on the big compound movements, killing two birds with one stone. Here’s an excellent article on abs by Mark Rippetoe for more information on this.

Not a good idea. From the Starting Strength website:

  • It completely removes the stabilization aspect of the squat. Try 300 on a smith machine then try it with a barbell and see how long you can keep from falling on your ass.
  • It restricts the natural range of motion. See each of us has our own biomechanics (the mechanisms that distinctly tie our individual bones and muscles together) and hence we have an individual movement pattern (range of motion) when doing the squat, or anything else for that matter. For example a guy with a long torso and stocky legs will not squat remotely close to how guy with a short torso and long legs does. The smith machine has only one range of motion for either of these individuals because the bar runs on rails in a fixed path (straight up and down or a slight diagonal). Every individual must conform to no matter their distinct movement pattern. This can be devastating to your skeletal system over time.”

“Squatting” in a Smith machine is an oxymoron. A squat cannot be performed on a Smith machine, as should be obvious from all previous discussion. Sorry. There is a gigantic difference between a machine that makes the bar path vertical, and a squat that is executed correctly enough to have a vertical bar path. Muscle and skeleton should do the job of keeping the bar path vertical, not grease fittings and floor bolts.– MARK RIPPETOE

If you are waiting to be convinced of the benefits of a full depth squat please read this article by Rippetoe. [Strong Language]

A warm-up serves to get you ready for the work you’re about to do. You’ll be able to lift more and it reduces your chances of injury. Regardless of the routine, you’ll want to do the minimum that you can to get warm and ready for the top set, without tiring yourself for your main work sets.

  1. A few minutes of foam rolling to loosen up tight places.
  2. A few minutes on the treadmill to raise your body temperature if it’s still low.
  3. Then a few practice sets of the exercise you’re about to perform to get the mind-muscle connection going.

Always start with the bar. Perform the warm-up reps as you would your heaviest set. Take it very seriously, you’re preparing your nervous system and motor function for the big set. I usually do 3-4 warm-up sets, but do as many as it takes to feel comfortable. Do a few reps 5-6 reps, working up to about 80% of your top-set weight. Then have 3 minutes rest before the top-set.

Example:

(Bar x5) x5 sets, 40% x5, 60% x5, (70% x 3), 80% x2, 3 minutes rest then do the top set. – Warmed-up but not tired.

In the context of dieting (calorie deficit) it is a good idea to have a day of rest between sessions at least. Recovery is important. If you fail to recover you’ll over-burden the already taxed central nervous system (because of the energy deficit), and you’ll ramp up stress levels. Stress affects your fat loss efforts.

It could be argued that training more than three days a week when in a deficit isn’t advisable and it is a very rare situation where I advise clients to train more frequently. When considering the Leangains diet set-up, rest-day(s) in-between training will make the diet work more effectively.

For those that must put two training days back to back, if you are using a split routine then keep your Squat and Deadlift sessions as far apart as possible, i.e.: Put your bench-press day next to one of your other workout days.

Example: Monday, Deadlift day. Thursday, Bench-press day. Friday, Squat day.

"Squatting" in the Smith Machine - Notice how the bar is on tracks.

The simple answer is exactly the same as men, despite all the nonsense you’ve read in magazines. I’ll leave you with a couple of good articles and a quote by Mark Rippetoe:

“Women get the best results when they train for performance. Even though there are differences between men’s and women’s response to training, there is no difference in the quality of the exercise needed to produce the stress that causes adaptation.

Ignore the silly bullshit. Women’s collegiate and professional athletics and its participants have for many years held the answers to the questions most women ask about exercise, answers that have gone fastidiously ignored by the figure salon industry. The fact is that aesthetics are best obtained from training for performance. In both architecture and human beauty, form follows function. Always and everywhere, the human body has a certain appearance when it performs at a high level. But the fitness industry continues to sell aesthetics first, as though it is independent of performance.

Muscles cannot get “longer” without some rather radical orthopedic surgery. Muscles don’t get leaner—you do. There is no such thing as “firming and toning.” There is only stronger and weaker.

The vast majority of women cannot get large, masculine muscles from barbell training. There is such a profound difference in male and female testosterone levels that the strength differences between men and women are almost entirely accounted for by hormone level.

As Cross-Fit (barbell training) grows and it becomes harder to ignore the results of honest work done at high intensities, the media are taking notice. You pretty much get out of an effort what you put into it. Effective exercise is more like training for athletics and less like lying around on the floor.”

It was most likely just a bad training session.

Dan John, one of the most experienced and knowledgeable strength training coaches in the world, says that you should expect 20% of your workouts to be “duds”. Off days. Days where your strength just “isn’t right”. Start a training program with this in mind and don’t let it rattle you when it happens because it’s normal. Go home, eat, rest and sleep well, and come back the next time with a determined attitude.

“It definitely wasn’t just that.”

First, be aware of the tendency for our brains to panic and immediately seek the worst case scenario. (Ah, I’m losing muscle!)

Reduction in body measurements in all areas doesn’t necessary mean muscle loss, it can just mean fat loss, as fat does get stored on, and get burned off of all areas of the body. However if this combined with strength losses then it may be a concern.

There are a number of things that it could be. I’ll share some things that go through my mind when assessing things for clients, this would be a general order:

  1. Are you stressed?
  2. Are you sleeping fine?
  3. Was it just a bad workout?
  4. Are you coming down with something, fever or a cold?
  5. Is it hayfever (seasonal pollen allergy in some countries) that is kicking your ass right now?

If no to all of the others, then we move onto the next stage:

  • Are the level of strength decreases within the accepted and expected range when cutting (up to ~10% depending on circumstance) due to the mechanical inefficiency of being leaner?
  • Do you need a diet break? (frequency guidelines) – If yes, take one and see how your strength is post diet break.
  • Is your protein intake sufficient? Consider double checking your counting. (protein intake guidelines)
  • Is your weight dropping, on average, more than the recommended amount for your body fat percentage at the moment? (maximal fat loss rate guidelines) – If yes, increase calories.
  • In the unlikely event that none of the above is applicable an your lifts continue to decrease without any other explanation, increase the energy intake until that ceases. Track. Reconsider options.

I’ve written this off the top of my head but it’s a fairly solid check list that’ll cover most situations.

I’ve written more about this in my post on Reverse Pyramid Training here. Please read that for context first.

Chin-ups and Dips – A Progression Example

However, the question often comes up with chin-ups or dips. The principles are the same as with the guide above, however you’ll want to add weight (using a belt and chain with weights attached) or take it away (by using resistance bands) so that you hit the target rep ranges.

Resistance Bands

Let’s use the rep example of 6-8 reps, 8-10 reps, and 10-12 reps, and let’s say we have three kinds of resistance bands (light, medium and strong). If today you get:

  • Set 1: 8 reps bodyweight.
  • Set 2: 6 reps bodyweight
  • Set 3: 10 reps bodyweight + strong band

Then,

  • For set one you’ll increase the load slightly for the next session because you reached the top of the rep range. Add 1.25kg.
  • For set two you were well under the 8 rep minimum target. Use a light band next time.
  • For set three you were at the bottom of the rep target range. You’re fine. No need to change.

If at the next session you get:

  • Set 1: 7 reps bodyweight + 1.25kg
  • Set 2: 9 reps bodyweight + light band
  • Set 3: 12 reps bodyweight + strong band

Then,

  • For set one you are fine. No change next time. See if you can get 8 reps next time.
  • For set two you are fine. No change next time. See if you can get 10 reps next time.
  • For set three you hit the top of your target rep range. Well done. Progress to the medium band the next time and see if you can get 10 or more reps.

Example video tutorial for resistance band chin-ups here. Another one here by Tony Gentilcore showing a way to progress the difficulty – still using the same band but by altering the leg position.

I’ve written about this in my article on Reverse Pyramid Training here.
I have never, even once, had anyone have significant strength losses while I have worked with them.

If this does happen, and you’ve ruled out the obvious like sickness, and “a bad workout”, and the reduced mechinical efficiency of being leaner (see the bench press FAQ), then I’d suggest there are four likely reasons for it:

  1. Calories are too low.
  2. Psychological. “Oh I’m dieting so I can’t do it.”
  3. They don’t respond well to fasted training. Though how much of this is physiological and how much is number 2 I don’t know. -I’ve only experienced this once with a client.
  4. Overtraining.

Number 2′s excuse is invalid.

What are your thoughts on accessory exercises for calves/biceps/triceps/abs/lower back?

Generally, I don’t use these with people while cutting.

I see accessory work as being divided into two broad categories –

  1. That which is specific and targeted to improving the main compound lifts. (Mimics the action in some way e.g. for the deadlift they would be – Shrugs, Racked DL’s, GHR, Good Mornings)
  2. That which is for vanity/hypertrophy.

Getting strong in the compound lifts should always be prioritized.

When cutting: accessory work type 1 isn’t needed, and too much type 2 can be detrimental.

When bulking: if the main lifts are improving then there is no need for type 1 work. Type 2 work can be added as long as the main lifts are going up.

Often, assuming the correct training intensity, commitment and all the other obvious pieces of the puzzle being in place, lack of progress in the main barbell lifts does not necessarily mean that the trainee has reached the point where they need to add in type 1 work, they merely need to eat more, or drop the type 2 work.

...compare the above with this squat by Arnie with a free bar.

If it’s just the one skipped session then you can just eat your rest day macros. If you’re missing 2 or 3, then it’s probably worth eating your “average macros” (meaning the average of the two days’ numbers) as otherwise the weekly deficit may work out to be a little too high*. (*It was for this reason that I previously advised that people continue cycling their macros as normal despite skipping a session.)

In the context of fat loss in the vast majority of cases the answer is no. If you throw in a lot of cardio at the start, how will you be able to measure the results of the diet itself? You won’t know how effective the diet is.

I want you to look great forever, not just in 12 weeks. In the future you’re not going to have time to do cardio every day so learn to set up your training minimally now, so that you know how little you can get away with when the busy times do come.

No, just increase the weight. It is a common mistake to train to be sore the following day, and can actually stall progress due to hindering recovery.

So why is muscle soreness (DOMS) not an end goal in itself after working out?

Remember the ab-belts that sent electronic pulses to your abs to tone you up in the ’90s? People thought that because it make you sore, it built your muscles. This has long ago been debunked.

You can get rock solid abs from Squatting and Deadlifting due to the isometric contraction to stabilize and take direct pressure off the spine, yet your abs won’t feel sore the next day. Do sit-ups and you’ll get very sore. It’s the eccentric contractions that make you sore.

I feel the same when I see people screw around with tricep-kickbacks and think they work because their arms hurt the next day (DOMS). If I stabbed them in the leg, they’d expect to have pain when walking downstairs in the morning but they wouldn’t expect bigger muscles right? I promise you now, you’ll never see a guy that made big arms using triceps-kickbacks.

Excluding the initial period of neuromuscular adaptation, if you progress with your poundages, for the same number of reps, under the same conditions (rest time between sets, etc.), you’re gaining muscle. Period.

Don’t train for pain for pain’s sake.

I am not against anyone wanting to enter a marathon or challenging themselves in an endurance event. I would love to do one myself one day. Training like this however will severely hinder your strength (and thus muscle) gains. Whether you decide to do this then will depend on your main goal.

  • Strength/ muscle gain? – You don’t want to be doing it for reasons explained very well here.
  • Get a good marathon time? – Do it.
  • Fat loss? Pros and cons. All the running will burn extra calories for sure, even if it isn’t a very efficient way of doing so. However if you’re overweight and weak then it won’t be doing you any long-term favours.

This is very common. Don’t panic. Firstly, have you lost body fat? As fat is lost the relative distance the bar has to travel gets greater. Recall your high school physics class, work = force x distance

If you are leaner, the same resistance for the same number of reps will be a greater amount of total work done. Thus a small decrease in the weight on the bar is not necessarily indicative of a drop in strength, rather, if strength were to stay the same, all things being equal, your bench would drop on a cut.

That’s completely up to you. Some people care a lot about their calves. I know Arnie did, as he got in a shouting match with the owner of Mr U’s gym just down the road at one of the 1970′s Mr Universe competitions. Arnie asked him what the secret was to his big calves and wouldn’t believe him when he told him just something very ordinary. – But then again he was a professional.

The real answer, calves are stubborn as shit to training stimulus and will give you a lot of pain when walking for very little growth in return so I don’t bother, but his Japanese genes are / were the reason for his huge calves.

Just found this on youtube from one of those Mr Universe comps. Shigeru Sugita: Fun when drunk, terrible singer though.

I've been waiting for you...

I can’t give recommendations here. You need to seek your doctor’s advice. Make sure it is a specialist sports doctor/ physiotherapist that knows what they are doing.

You need to ask about a plan of recovery and rehabilitation if necessary, in the context of your overall training plan. You need to get specifics on what you can and can’t do.

I’m not a rehab specialist, nor doctor, and I can’t give advice online effectively even if I was.

It’s all too easy to just train around the pain and think it will be ok while not addressing the underlying issue. Two things that need to be considered other that the above moving forward:

  1. Was it a form issue that caused the injury? or,
  2. Was it a previous injury that just came up to bite you in the ass this time?

For the former, when you are healthy again get someone to have a look at your form and see if they can see any issue. If no-one is available then video yourself and compare with the form used in the instructional videos I have linked to on the homepage (right sidebar, at the bottom).

The body is a complicated machine. If there is one thing I have learned over the years through injuring myself doing silly things it’s that the pain you feel is only an issue with that area half of the time. Recent examples of my own to highlight this:

Knee pain – tight foot arches. Stretch Elbow pain – grip being over-trained – cut down on grip work. Shoulder pain – scapula movement problem – retrain to move correctly, very complicated. Lower-right back pain – long-term anterior pelvic tilt & left ribs tilting upward – retrain breathing & posture, paying special attention when training. Training program revamped by Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore. Very complicated.

The take home point it this folks – don’t guess, see a pro. Get them to advise you moving forward. If you are cutting currently, ask them if you are fine to be in a calorie deficit or whether it will be detrimental. If the latter then take a diet break.

Some people are more prone to gaining muscle. Some aren’t. That’s the genetic lottery. I’m not one of the lucky ones either. I don’t buy into the idea that there are three distinct body types. Some people can get away with less focussed training than others; most people need to train focusing on programmed strength increases. I don’t think that there is a need to separate training programs for hardgainers and gifted folks.

It’s a little complicated but I’ll try and summarise the key points and then have a recommendation at the end for the guy looking to improve his physique:

1. Strength training will improve a persons endurance.

“There’s simply no better way to increase your work capacity than increasing your ability to produce force. If your primary interest is being more effective at moving yourself and/or sub-maximal or maximal loads more efficiently, training for strength contributes much more to your goal than training for endurance.”Mark Rippetoe

2. Endurance training will impact strength development

“The mechanisms furthering adaptations in one trait – AMPK for mitochondrial biogenesis for endurance, suppress those that would have allowed optimal adaptation in the latter case, mTOR for muscle protein synthesis – all things being equal – looking at concurrent endurance/strength training vs strength training sans endurance training.

“It should be noted that it’s primarily endurance training that impairs strength and muscle growth, not the other way around (strength training even has some modest, but positive effect on endurance in beginners).

“There’s no discussion here – in fitness, you cannot have the cake and eat it. There is a give and take, and you will have to find your priorities. Just don’t sit around and daydream. And for all that is sacred, do not join the mediocre masses, with their haphazard routines and ill-thought programming, if you insist on combining endurance and strength. There is much to be gained by a proper and well-thought out weekly cycle. Do your research.”Martin Berkhan

3. Strength is gained slowly, whereas Cardiovascular / Respiratory Endurance (CRE) can be increased quickly.

“This is because CRE gains are mostly chemical / metabolic alterations, whereas gaining strength involves architectural changes in the body. This is a long, slow process that accumulates over a lifetime.”Michael Wolf

Recommendation:

So, if you’re an endurance guy but wish to focus on your physique goals then it would be best to put your endurance goals on hold for the short term, do the minimum you can do to maintain a level of stamina you deem tolerable, and put your focus into chasing strength gains. – Endurance goals can always be chased down later, and you’ll likely quickly surpass your previous records because you’ll be working with a stronger base.

If you’re not interested in endurance, rather physique goals, then just chase strength. You’ll still improve your CRE (as anyone that has done heavy barbell squatting will attest to).

A deload is a reduction in overall total training load: mainly volume, intensity or frequency.

A deload generally is used during a bulk, before working into another phase of training to push into new boundaries (often meaning heavier weights, or the same weight for more reps).

I wouldn’t recommend a purposeful deload during a cut because. Any non-beginner won’t be making progress with their lifts anyway.

If you would like to (or feel you need to) take a small break, say a reduction in any of those three main variables, then I’d combine it with a diet break so you’re roughly eating at maintenance and thus avoid any muscle losses during that time. (I admit this is a cautious approach, as muscle losses when protein intake is high, calorie deficit modest, and break from training relatively short, is not likely to happen to any significant extent.)

So, I currently deadlift 140×3. Can I deload to 130×5?

I wouldn’t consider that a deload.

A reduction in total weight and an increase in number of reps done for that weight is a reduction in intensity but an increase in volume. Thus, the net change isn’t necessarily going to be a reduction in training load. So feel free to do that without taking a diet break while doing so.

I’d like to note that there may be times when you need to reduce the weight. If you have an off day, never force yourself to lift something you can’t do so with good form.

Also, when getting leaner your top lifts may drop simply due to the mechanical inefficiency of being leaner (think of the bench press and the bar having to travel further).

The reason the internet may appear split regarding use of training belts is because there isn’t a one size fits all answer.

If you are reasonably strong (a 2xBW deadlift, 1.5xBW squat for example) and haven’t been using one then it is likely that your form is good (otherwise at that weight you’ll have caused yourself a hernia). In which case I think it’s fine to use a thick belt. – This is not for injury prevention reasons however.

Rather then helping avoid injury, belts can easily cause injuries, as they can easily mask poor form. Even with experienced lifters it can be very hard to judge for yourself when lifting at your max whether your form was tight (good) or not, so if you don’t have a training partner to check, set up a camera every now and then to make sure that you’re not messing it up.

You will often see me tell people to stay away from belts, because the people asking are invariably beginners.

The argument for belt use is to increase intra-abdominal pressure to help manage heavier loads, to train the abs harder and thus aid more growth overall. Beginners, even advanced beginners will do well to stay away from belts, as it forces them to train with good form. Whenever I try a new technique (front squats onto a box recently for example) I am sure to not use a belt to help make sure I don’t / can’t mess up my form.

I of course realise that by saying this publicly that a lot of beginners, believing themselves not beginners, will now rush out and get a belt. Unfortunately I don’t have any good defining points for when someone is best off starting to use a belt. Just don’t kid yourself that you need one to be strong. Plenty of people have gotten strong without belts. Martin Berkhan for example can deadlift over 600lbs and squat over 400lbs without one.

Bodyweight workouts can be effective, but in general there are too many ways for the untrained & unguided beginner to do them wrong.

We’ve all got friends that have played around with bodyweight routines at home, but how many of those people do you see real physical change in? A lot of movement that hasn’t translated into strength suggests that many of those workouts were tantamount to flapping the arms around aimlessly, they simply haven’t realised it yet. This certainly wasn’t for lack of effort or good will (in most cases), but the curious part of human nature is that many would prefer quit and blame their body than admit they need to change things up.

Too much focus on things that don’t matter, too little focus on things that do. The fix in many cases is re-focus or start focusing on barbell strength work.

You can cheat yourself out of a good training effect on a lot of exercises, but not barbell work.

Let’s take pushups for example – potentially a brilliant chest as well as shoulder stability exercise, but the way most people perform and progress with them renders them (almost) useless. (The rep range goes up rather than the intensity increasing, the next comes forward and rep range shorter, the reps quicken, back arches… sound familiar? I’ve done it, we’ve nearly all done it.)

This is why, if you are new to training, and don’t have someone to show you how to train effectively, I strongly suggest you make barbells your staple. Well, that’s one big reason anyway. For a more in-depth explanation see Why Barbells Are Best.

Q: So what about the home workouts I keep seeing then on Youtube?

The people showing you these “easy home workouts” have actually built their body doing the basic movements. Then they try to present you a shortcut to get their physique. These pseudo-experts take advantage of the fact that you trust in them just because of the way they look. What it comes down to is that there are three reasons why someone looks muscular:

  • They either achieved progressive overload doing the basic movements,
  • They used drugs,
  • They have amazing genetics.

With these pseudo-experts it’s usually a combination of all three, then they present themselves with their shirt off in every video. – Jonnie Candito

I believe barbells are going to give you the best result. However, I appreciate that some people can’t get to a gym and don’t have the space (or budget) for a full set at home. Enter the often asked question about bodyweight work…

Is it possible to get an effective workout exclusively from bodyweight work? Yes absolutely, and when you’re away without gym access I would definitely suggest it. However, when it comes to an effective training program there needs to be progressive overload, and that can quickly become difficult as one becomes stronger, especially for the back and legs. So in the following example I’ve assumed you won’t mind buying a few cheap pieces of equipment as you get stronger.

Example Home Workout:

  • Warm up – guide here.
  • Chin-ups – 3×6-10 Resistance bands to help, a belt and weight added in future to add resistance.
  • Push-ups – 3×8-12 Slow and controlled. 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down. Adjust the foot height to help or progress intensity accordingly.
  • Goblet Style Squats 3×12 With a dumbbell or weight plate or sandbag clutched to the chest.
  • One leg pistol squats 3xX* – Work into these slowly and only if you are strong enough. The Goblet squats will help build strength. Rep target is whatever you can get but no more than 8 per leg and stay well away from form failure to keep your knee ligaments safe.
  • Dips 3×8-12 – Perhaps between two very study chairs. Again, a belt and weight added in future to add resistance.
  • Kettlebell / Dumbbell swings – 10-12kg (~25lbs) is probably a good starting point.

Always use good form. If in doubt, video yourself and compare with videos online or ask a trainer in person.

Notes/Application:

For the above you’ll need a chin-up bar (which you can attach between a door frame), a lifting belt that you can add weight to, weight plates, and a dumbbell / kettlebell. – Not too expensive overall, especially if you get second-hand weight plates.

Bodyweight work can be very good and effective when done properly. However one huge problem when recommending bodyweight work to people is that, as is the human condition, we have a tendency to cheat. Usually this will be either through poor form, or rep speed, which at the end of the day only cheats ourselves of an effective workout.

(Push-ups are a classic culprit. I used to do 40-50 rapid fire pushups and think I was tough. But as the set progressed the rep length got shorter, my back caved, and my chest didn’t change as a result. Why? Poor form and the wrong rep range for hypertrophy.)

The effective range for hypertrophy is somewhere between 8-12 reps: below this puts more focus on strength; above more on muscle endurance. With bodyweight workouts it’s more difficult to adjust the difficulty so try and keep within the range 5-15 with bodyweight work.

When traveling you won’t have your weight plates/belt available. Increase the intensity in this situation by slowing down the rep speed.

Clearly the above is not an exhaustive list. There are a huge variety of bodyweight exercises that can be performed and with their variations they number in the hundreds. Apply the principles above and you’ll be fine.

************************************

If you think this as a full blog post would be useful, as well as videos, then leave a comment and let me know and I’ll make the videos in the coming weeks.

The bar should be around 8.5″/21cm off the floor. This is the standard height when loaded with 45lb/20kg plates, this will make 135lbs/60kg total.

Deadlift bar height sketch

Beginners will likely need to use less weight for the first few workouts. This means smaller plates and a lower bar height (unless olympic plates are available). Beginners are also more likely to round their backs and have flexibility issues when starting, so make sure that you adjust the height by either putting padding or other weight plates under either side, until you can lift 135lbs/60kg.

Training is the catalyst for change; diet allows the change to happen.

Though I have stated elsewhere that diet is accounts for 70% of physique change, really the two are inseparable in my eyes.

Dieting without training is very likely to set you up for a rebound. You’re also likely to only become a skinny-fat version of your current self as you will lose muscle mass as well as the fat. This diet is designed to be used in combination with training to prevent that – I’ve written why in a detailed guide to minimalistic effective training, which can be found here.

No. If you are ready to go again the next day, you didn’t train hard enough and you may as well have stayed at home. Hit it hard, eat, sleep, repeat. This is the success formula.

DIET QUESTIONS:

ALCOHOL: Is it banned on this diet?
FIBER: How much do I need?
CARB SOURCES: Can I eat refined carbs, sugar, brown vs white ‘x’ etc?
FRUIT: Do I add that as normal carbs or is it different due to not being ‘starchy’?
FROZEN VEGETABLES: Are they OK?
WATER: How much should I be drinking?
DIET SODA: Can I drink it during the fast? What about tea or coffee?
COUNTING FAT: Any tips for meat?
TRACE MACROS: Do I need to count the carbs in (fruit name) / dairy / sauce etc?
TRACE PROTEIN: Do I need to count it?
SALT: Is high salt intake a concern?
FRYING: Is cooking with oil OK on Training Days?
WEIGHING FOOD: Do I need to weigh everything?
SNACKING: Can I eat between meals?
HUNGER FEARS: Will I feel hungry in the mornings?
TOO FULL: As I am on a cut is it detrimental to eat less?
HUNGER PROBLEMS: I feel hungry during the fast, why?
AFTERNOON NAPS: Will interrupted sleep affect fat loss?
MEAL FREQUENCY: Can I eat 4 meals instead of 2 or 3?
TIMING MISTAKES: I ate lunch a little later today, should I adjust the fasting window?
SLEEP: Why is it important?
IRREGULAR SCHEDULE: How do I set things up?
FISH OIL: What dosage is optimal?
SUPPLEMENTS: What about them?
PROTEIN POWDER: Is it OK to use?
PROTEIN REQUIREMENTS: I read a study recommending xg/lb but you recommend yg/lb. What’s the deal?
TIMING vs CALORIES vs MACROS: What’s the Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance?
Do HARDGAINERS need greater meal frequency?
Why aren’t you a fan of MACRO CALCULATORS?
What is the best MACRO RATIO?
CREATINE: Types, Dosing and Timing
How quickly can I expect RESULTS?
Should I CUT or SLOW-BULK?
PALEO: I follow the Paleo diet. What should I do about carb sources?
SELF-BELIEF: I lack it :'( Can you whisper sweet, motivational things to me?

TRAINING QUESTIONS:

MUSCLE LOSS / GAIN: Does strength correlate to muscle mass?
TIMING: How should I split my meals for optimal results?
AB WORK: Why do you not recommend it?
SMITH MACHINE: Can I use it?
WARM UP: What should I do?
CONSECUTIVE TRAINING DAYS: Is it OK to train two/three days in a row?
LADIES TRAINING: What should I do?
STRENGTH DROP! What should I do?
RPT SET ADJUSTMENTS: How do I adjust the top-set weight?
BACK-OFF SETS: How do I adjust them? Always 15% off the top-set?
STRENGTH LOSSES: What can be the cause of this? Is it normal?
ACCESSORY EXERCISES: When should I add them?
SKIPPED SESSIONS: How should I adjust?
CARDIO: Should I do it?
SORENESS: I don’t feel sore the next day, should I do more?
ENDURANCE TRAINING: How would this affect things?
BENCH PRESS STRENGTH DROP: Why? What should I do?
CALF TRAINING: Should I?
INJURY / PAIN: What should I do? What exercises do you recommend?
BODY TYPES: Should training vary depending on body type?
STRENGTH vs ENDURANCE: How does training for one affect the other?
What are your thoughts on a ‘DELOAD’?
Should I train with a BELT?
Why do you prefer BARBELLS OVER BODYWEIGHT workouts?
BODYWEIGHT / HOME WORKOUT: Got an example?
BAR HEIGHT: How high should the bar be for a deadlift?
TRAINING: Do I have to?
FREQUENCY: I’m doing well with 3 days at the gym, surely 6 will double my results?

263 Comments on “Intermittent Fasting & Leangains FAQ”

  1. Stephen

    Hey Andrew. how is everything going? Hope all is well. I’m a bit confused on the adjusting of macros when trying to keep losing weight, in the example it says you take 6% of your daily calorie intake away. for training days you take that from carbs int he post workout meal. I need to take 38g carbs away from my post workout meal. does this mean eat 38g less potato in my post workout or would it mean 38g carbs meaning I need to workout how many carbs per gram of potato then go on that? I’m just a bit confused on how to do it. here’s what I think so far but not sure if it is correct.

    My post workout meal I eat 500g potato which equals 85g carbs. so in an equation this is what i’ve done but again not sure if it is right/

    85g carbs / 500g = 0.17g carbs per 1 g potato

    I need to take away 38g carbs from this meal.

    38g carbs / 0.17 = 223.52 round up to 224.

    500 – 224 = 276g potato

    is this right? cause eventually as I adjust my macros to continue losing weight will I not end up with 0 carbs in my post workout meal? I’m not very good at math and don’t want to mess this up. Thanks in advance!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Stephen. As you acknowledge your maths is terrible, I’d suggest you just use a common sense approach that requires none to check it after making any calculations. In this case you can easily see you’re a little off via the following logical steps:

      If 500g of potato is 85g of carbs, then 250g ~=42.5g right? So 38g of carbs will be a little less then 250g of potato, not more.

      As for the latter question, covered in the article, here.

  2. JN

    Andy, hello once again.

    As I clearly haven’t bothered you enough, I shall now bombard you with one new question:

    If I change from a midday workout (10g BCAA pre-workout, large meal post-workout) to Evening Training, do you think something like this has its flaws:

    Lunch: 10%~20% of calorie intake (most carbs here)
    10g BCAA Pre-Workout
    Dinner: 80~90% of calorie intake (protein + few carbs)

    ?

    Basically, the gist is: BCAA pre-workout to compensate for the distance between meals (expenses aside, doesn’t hurt, right?) and carbs… Before or after? I know they’re usually kept for after the training, but I wonder… Most of my carbs come from cereals and 25g~30g of honey blended with my 340g of greek yogurt (10/4/0 per 100g).

    What say you, Andy?
    Thanks in advance!

    PS: Unrelated, but how did you learn Japanese? I learned Kanji (I know around 1900), but since I don’t have contact with japanese people I can’t practise enough =\ So I can read and translate stuff, but my communication and hearing comprehension skills are horrendous.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Joao.
      Timing considerations like that are covered in the article, The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance – #4 Meal Timing & Frequency, Calorie & Macro Cycling.

      TV with Japanese subtitles. I stole sentences from the characters and noted them in the memorisation app Anki. d-addicts.com was useful in getting the subs. The advantage of downloading the shows is that you can rewind 10 seconds to listen again.
      Then started with novels. Took ages to read a page at first but quickly improved.

  3. Matt

    Hello Andy, I just want to start off by saying I love what you do. Always refreshing to see fitness sites that are still actively commenting/ updating the free portions (most just go the way of paid only forums and updates).

    I was just curious if you’d be interested in some hypnosis/ motivational help for clients/ the public (either in the form of videos on youtube or some small interviews for your blog). This would all be free, potentially looking for some testimonials.

    I have been studying a lot of psychology and working to broaden out my name while helping the public with hypnosis. Figured it would be nice to give back to you as well as everyone frequenting the site.

    Some simple things like removing some bad habits, strengthening good habits, general relaxation on command.

    If there’s anything in particular your clients have been consistently having trouble with you can e-mail me back and I can figure out some techniques to help them out.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Matt

    1. Andy Morgan

      Matt, thanks for the comment. Glad you enjoy the blog an find it useful.
      I only recommend things publicly I have tried myself, have tested with clients and am very familiar with. So while I find it interesting it’s not an offer I can take you up on.

  4. Julia

    Hey Andy,

    you say about the fishoil that you need 2g of EPA an 1,5g of DHA, is this for a woman the same? I have about 60kg.

    Thank you :)

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Julia.
      There is probably a formula for lean body mass that I read and forgot about cause the difference was too minor to be worth worrying about.
      Check out Examine.com.

  5. Leonardo

    Andy, Ive searched the questions above regarding irregular schedule but couldnt find what I was looking for. My question is this. I only have access to the gym from Monday to Thursday. I would love to train 3 days a week with alternating rest days like you recommend, but this does not seem possible for me. I am also trying to do +20/-20 body recomp with my macros. What do you suggest? Do you expect 2 consecutive training & +20macros, as well as 3 consecutive rest & -20macros to have a detrimental effect?

    Additionally, I like to go surfing on the weekends. Should I try to compensate this by adding some 300+ kcals to my wkend diet?

    Thanks.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Leonardo. Multiple issues here, let’s knock out the easy one first. – Yes, add in calories for the surfing on the weekends.

      Now as for the training, it depends where you are on the linear progression continuum. I’d say if you’re on the Big 3 or a variant then you’d be better off with two days a week of the strength work. If you’re splitting things then you can possibly have days back to back – for the latter try it and see.

  6. JN

    Hello once again, Andy.

    Everything on my side of LG is going mighty fine.

    Two simple (borderline silly) questions though… The type I prolly know the answer already:

    1- If you do your compound exercise for the day, even besting yourself compared to previous weeks, but feel much weaker when doing the accessory exercises (say, 6 chinups instead of 8), do you feel like it’s still a victory? Personally, I do. Just wanted to make sure.

    2- What do you recommend for people with sissy fingers/wrists? My wrists feel much better compared to when I first started, but my fingers lacking a certain level of meatiness tend to pull me down sometimes when I deadlift or do chinups. My muscles feel fine, but the iron feels like its crushing my wimpy bones (particularly with a proper grip as per Rippetoe’s indications).

    By the way, you are completely right when you say that those with a relatively lean body, but lacking overall muscle mass will enjoy the spurt of strength more than other body types. I started deadlifting 6x40kg due to my back issues and with constant posture training I’ve managed to lift 5x90kg 5 weeks later. I know it’s low, but feels like a victory to me considering my back and my 69kg.

    Overall, I’ve been giving 0 f’s about the way I look. Appearance will come with time.
    For now, all I care about is seeing how far I can push myself (safely) and improve my strength.

    Thank you, Andy.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Joao, thanks for the questions. Good to hear thing are going well.
      1. Yes. This is covered in the above FAQ in more detail.
      2. Give it time. Aside from the muscles, your connective tissues and bones will develop to handle it.

  7. Kirk M.

    Hey Andy,

    I hope this message finds you well – we love your content.

    I am the managing editor of SheerStrengthLabs.com. We currently have the
    #1 selling bodybuilding supplements on Amazon.com, and we’re looking to
    feature some new articles on our website by blog owners that we know and
    trust. When I came across your blog, I was interested in adding you to
    that list. We would like to offer you the opportunity to write and be
    featured for our audience.

    Basically, we are looking for original content in the form of an article
    that is content focused and between 500-700 words (give or take). Of
    course, it should be relevant to men’s fitness and valuable to our readers
    and provide some kind of take away to the reader.

    Please let me know immediately if this is something you’d be interested
    in, and we’ll take the conversation from there.

    Thanks much,

    Kirk
    SheerStrengthLabs.com
    Blog and Relationship Manager

  8. atolls

    Hi Andy, you mention that you ask your clients to strength train only 3 times a week with no cardio.
    However, what would your recommendation for athletes who train more than 3 times a week be? I train for olympic weightlifting and I usually train 4 times a week with 2 added cardio sessions. Would IF work in this case? Thank you!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Athletes have their individual sports considerations and no blanket recommendations can be made. If you’re a serious athlete and don’t have a plan set by a coach you should consider getting one specific to your sport.

  9. JN

    Hey Andy.

    I contacted you a while ago (a year or so, I believe) to request a consultation. You politely declined due to my knee issues (in the mean time I found out I also have grade 1 spondylolisthesis, cool beans).

    Either way, I decided to get to it. Been going just fine. Gotta have perfect form on the DL, and since it’s just 2 sets for RPT a week, I don’t feel like my knees die (entirely). I also do Leg Press instead of squatting. Brutally consistent with the food (same food every workout day, same food every rest day), and I don’t stress about 1g of chicken or tuna missing from my measurements.

    Contacting you for a question:
    Leg Press is already known to be slightly less optimal than Squats (for those with decent knees).
    What about Inclined Leg Press? Because I changed gyms and the one I’m at now only has Squat Rack and Inclined Leg Press.

    Is it pretty much the same as normal Leg Press? I also do Leg Extension and Calves on Leg day as complimentary exercises. Don’t really worry about tracking the improvements on those.

    Thanks in advance,
    Keep up the excellent work.

  10. asai adame

    Hello there Andy, First of all let me start by saying I love your site! Also I have a question. I am on my deload week right now and i am on cutting macros. They are 250/220/69 at 2,500 calories. My question to you is since I wont be lifting as much as i usually do this week should I adjust my macros or keep them the same? Thanks!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Asai, glad you’ve been finding it useful.

      Keep them the same. It’s not worth such micro-management and part of the deload is the extra nutrition for recovery as well.

  11. nickprowse1

    Hi Andy, I’m super embarrassed to put this but, I have become my own worst enemy. And though I don’t want ‘sweet nothings’ just wanted some advice and tips.

    I have a sweet tooth and this leads me to trouble, I wanted to get advice and tips from you and the gang on here to stop me ruining my progress. I’ve hit a bit of a rut as I take 2 steps forward and 2 steps back. I know what i am doing is at the detriment of my progress.

    Any advice and help to combat these bad habits I let ruin the good I do.

    Thanks

    Nick

    1. Ivan

      - IIFYM
      – make your own sweet snacks (try stevia)
      – man up and deal with it

      in that particular order :)

  12. Paul

    Andy, i have a question that is going to sound very simple but i can never find a straight forward answer. When it comes to activity level setting; i have a desk job and perform your 3 day split program (obviously 3 days a week) lifting heavy RPT. Does this put me in the lightly active 1.375 group?

    1. Andy Morgan

      “I can never find a straight forward answer…”
      Possibly, that can only be a guess though. Choose something, track it over the next four weeks, then adjust upwards or downwards accordingly.

  13. craig74

    I just spent way too much of my life firing back at someone who used this lecture as “proof” that IF makes you fat: http://www.humankinetics.com/raisingthebar/raisingthebar/energy-thermodynamics-revisited-the-importance-of-within-day-energy-balance-for-optimal-weight-body-composition-and-sense-of-well-being-

    Old studies, gross generalizations, and bro science. I hope you get a snicker out of the “the most protein a person can use is 30 grams at one time” comment. When I see stuff like this, I know why Martin flips his lid. Thanks for helping us fight through the BS, Andy.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Some people are open to learning, others aren’t. With these forum back and forths, the value is not necessarily in trying to change the mind of the person you’re discussing with, but helping those that are reading along. If you have someone that isn’t open, and no-one else is watching, then it’s just a waste of time.
      Important to be open ourselves also.

  14. Bryan

    Hi Andy, I just started doing this IF thing and have some questions that I couldn’t find elsewhere. Can you guide me what to eat after cardio session? (3 rest days per week – squash at night for one hour), should I eat as much as PWO meal or just whey protein will do? (Fasting from 8pm to 11am) And according to the FAQ, white or whole wheat pasta makes no difference for PWO meal?

    My main goal is to gain muscle mass and lose fat. Currently sitting at 25% body fat 170lbs. My maintenance kcal should be 2500 and I’m consuming 170g protein, 230g carbs and maybe 20-30g of fats, would it be enough or should I eat more carbs? hope to hear from you soon, thanks!

    Bryan

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Bryan, thanks for the questions.
      1. Don’t bother adjusting your meal times for a cardio session. Leave it as is.
      2. Yes, a stated, white or brown carbs it doesn’t matter.
      Detailed timing set up guides and macros guides are in this series bud so you’ll find everything you need there.

  15. Paul

    Hey Andy I have been lurking on your blog for a few weeks now and I can quite honestly say that you have enlightenment me.

    I am 25, a big guy 6’4 250lbs, I have always been at war with my waist line and, as you would say, have been spinning my wheels in regards to the gym for years. After finding your blog and digesting the info and your advice I have divised a solid nutrition plan and will be embarking upon the big 3 from Monday.

    I will be on a cut and training fasted in the morning so I hope within a few months I will be able to show you some impressive development. I have just spent the last week working on my form and increasing my flexibility so that I may perform my squats and deadlifts properly. I had hips like rusted gates and my height has always made these exercises difficult but I feel I can ease my self safely into the big 3 now and put your knowledge into action.

    I pretty much just wanted to thank you and make you aware that you have genuinely helped me and educated me, it just felt wrong not to let know. I’ll return In a few months and update you with my progress and hopefully have some decent before and after images for the blog.

    All the best

    Paul

  16. Ivan

    Andy, I’m soon transitioning to a steady bulk (0%/+20%) and I’d like to hit the gym 4 times a week, do you think I should do 3DAY RPT + 1 accessory day with the muscle groups falling behind (arms, traps forearms for me) or do a normal push/pull or upper/lower to hit muscle groups twice a day?

  17. Q

    I like to work out early in the morning (5am) but want my fasting window to be 11am-7pm. Lean gains recommends BCAA’s during this scenario. This would appeal more so than eating window of 6am-2pm as the evening would call for greater sacrifice. What are your thoughts? Great site by the way!

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Kevin.
      Flat bench works more overall musculature, but it’s a minor point. Dan John prefers the incline press for his athletes as he believes it translates better out on the field. Choose one and stick to it bud.

  18. Ivan

    Hi Andy, I was recently told the protein intake you suggest for bulking (1.8 – 2.2g/KG LBM) is too much, apparently 1.8g is the absolute max. Could you provide relevant sources from where you got these numbers?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Ivan. The figures aren’t taken from a single study, this is a suggestion based on objective evaluation all the evidence (studies) that we have – which would have come from Alan Aragon, Brad Schoenfeld or Eric Helms most likely, in either their meta-analysis papers or through more informal means (video or face-to-face conversation). Two things that are important here:

      1. There individual variances in every study, so a single figure will never be the limit and every range will have outliers.
      2. I am assuming the part of your question “absolute maximum” refers to muscle protein synthesis.

      Who were you recently told that 1.8 is the limit by and do you know their reasoning?

        1. Andy Morgan

          Sure, I didn’t take it that way Ivan. Honestly, I don’t have enough level of interest to re-dig through it, generally I take something and if I don’t deem the details to be relevant I just forget them, so only a few actual study names stick in my head. If you go over to Brad Schoenfeld’s page you can ask him and it’ll be there in an instant, or looking in Alan Aragon’s research review you’ll find it all there.

          1. Jordan

            Hi Andy,
            First of all thanks for the fanatically clear information. I have one question regarding my early morning fast, I start work early 6.00am and begin physically working for the rest of the day. I break my fast at 10.00 am will this result in breakdown muscle tissue for energy?

            Thanks Jordan

            1. Andy Morgan

              As long as your set-up is sound (no severe calorie deficit, low protein intake overall, and inappropriate training) you’ll be fine Jordan because the work doesn’t account to a training effect – progressive overload.

            2. Jordan

              Thanks for the reply, i should of been more specific with the word ‘Physically’ i meant to say physically lifting heavy objects repetitively. Still fine? Thanks so much for you help!

            3. Andy Morgan

              Ah, I see. I really don’t know in this situation. I guess that this would come down to whether this amounts to a training effect for you. (Ha, vague I know.) Essentially the question, are you used to it or not?

            4. Jordan

              I’ve been doing it for a while now so i am used to it, (just not being fasted) I’m in and out of a truck lifting couches, wardrobes, smaller item etc. I’m not really working hard enough to get a sweat up or anything but it does take a lot of physical effort. I’m just a bit concerned of muscle loss during this period.

            5. Andy Morgan

              Sure, I can understand that, it’s easy to let the mind play tricks. I don’t think you have anything to worry about though.

  19. Nesta

    Hi I’ve doing the intermittent fasting for two days now. and i want to make sure that i’m doing it right. Been drinking lots and lots of water, some black coffee, and taking my multivitamins. I’m doing 20 hour fasting, 4 hour eating period. during my eating period, i’m eating 3 different meals: 1) oatmeal with nuts, fat free milk and some brown sugar, along with some fresh apple juice 2) salad with grilled chicken and balsamic vinegar 3) either pasta or brown rice with tuna. Ive lost some weight so far, and mostly aiming for my abs. So am i doing this right?

  20. Leo

    Hi Andy,
    fist I want to say that I really like you site! It gives a lot of great input and really helped me out with some questions concerning IF.
    As you aked above in the bodyweight workout example, I would definately like to see a blog-post and/or some videos about bodyweight workouts!
    Thanks,
    Leo

  21. Tee

    I am currently feeding twice – once at 13:00 and again at 20:30. Sometimes, if I know I have to get up early the next day, I would like to go to sleep earlier than normal.

    Would it be OK to move the second feeding up to say 19:30 or whenever – assuming the next meal will still be at 13:00 the next day?

    Thanks

  22. Philip

    Hi Andy,

    I really want to thank you for such a fantastic resource. I’ve completely transformed my body over the last year and have found it disgustingly easy thanks to your site. There’s still more to be done but I know it’s purely a matter of patience. Naturally this has led to questions, comments and compliments from people so I always recommend your’s and Martin’s sites.

    However, I run into problems when female friends ask for advice. It’s particularly distressing because I see girls “detoxing” by drinking expensive bottles of smoothies and juices or drinking protein shakes for a few weeks which must leave them starving and on constant rebound cycles despite all the effort they put in. Unfortunately, it feels like just giving them correct information (by linking to your site) isn’t enough, the psychological element of wanting to do something (ANYTHING) right now and the ease of following a set system of rules (no matter how unnecessary they are) is pretty powerful, even if they’d be better off investing their time learning and calculating their macros instead of endless cardio.

    Anecdotally, just linking to your site seems to run into problems here because of the barbell training and the fasting cycles, maybe they have a misconception that it has to be “all or nothing”. Leigh Peele’s site has been a very useful resource for modifying things a little, particularly her interview with Martin and her articles on defining bulky.

    For one friend, in an effort to get her started, focused on the important things and seeing enough progress to keep her motivated, I’ve told her to forget about the fasting, gone through the macro calculations for her, made a meal plan and given her a bodyweight training program (warm-up, knee push ups and goblet squats for now; when she sees progress I’ll suggest she get a chin up bar as well).

    So I’d like to thank you again for your help and put in a vote for a bodyweight training article. I took your recommendations and checked some other sites to put together a training routine for her with pictures and video but a dedicated article I could reference and link to in future would be great.

    1. Julia

      Hey,

      I lift heavy weights too and fast. It took me a while to get used to fasting but now it is very easy.
      I think there is no difference between men and women. I do more weights than some guys in the gym and I’m not big and bulky.165cm and 57,5kg. Lost about 3,5kg since february and my weights in the gym went up! IF and lifting weights are great for women!
      If the ladies really want to look lean and not skinny fat than they just gotta put some work in! It’s not always fun but if you have goals you have to work for them!

      Julia

      1. Philip

        Hi Julia,

        Congrats on the progress!

        I think for the physique goals the majority of women have, getting the diet right is so much more important than the training. If barbells and fasting are preventing a woman from starting a maintainable, calorie restricted diet it’s counter productive to put any emphasis on them at all. The largest benefit to fasting is as a method to improve diet adherence (although initial research is suggesting there may be other potential benefits. Source: http://www.lift-heavy.com/intermittent-fasting/). I’d also argue that a large benefit of training is improving diet adherence as well. If these things are hurting diet adherence for an individual then they’re probably not worth it.

        I agree that men and women are very similar. However, there are definitely differences; for example, Martin has recommended a more isocaloric approach to dieting combined with shorter fasting periods (14h) when working with women.

        Also, it’s completely possible (although not necessarily easy) for a woman to accidentally achieve a body that she (and the majority of people) would consider “a bit much” using barbell training. Source:
        http://www.leighpeele.com/bulky-muscles-and-training-females-the-definition
        http://www.leighpeele.com/bulky-muscles-and-women-part-deux
        http://www.leighpeele.com/the-ideal-female-body

        Hopefully it should go without saying that it’s a subjective subject and that achieving strength related accomplishments (if that’s your goal) should take precedence over anybody’s opinion of how you look, but I’ll mention it anyway.

        For an untrained woman to maintain lean muscle mass, stimulate fat burning and improve her diet adherence while on a cut I think bodyweight exercises, while not ideal, should be sufficient to avoid the “skinny fat” look.

        It’s also possible that by emphasizing the importance of tracking measurements and interpreting them properly (comparing at 4 week intervals, expecting initial water weight loss due to “cleaner” food choices, plateaus and general randomness) the achievement of losing weight may lead somebody who previously had no particular interest in fitness goals to begin researching the subject. Or maybe not…which is also completely fine.

    2. Andy Morgan

      Philip, thank you for the comment. Glad you’ve found the site so helpful and I appreciate you linking your friends here.
      Leigh Peele’s site is excellent, especially for women. You heard the maxim, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”? Don’t stress it. People are always going to be distracted by some other shit, but when that fails, they’ll come back and thank you.

  23. Ivan

    Hey Andy,

    I’ve been carb cycling for a month now (@11-13% bf atm) and every rest day is a nightmare, I’m staying 60-80g carbs and I feel completely lethargic, borderline depressed. Is it worht it? Or should I just go 85-100g carbs maybe? Two rest days in a row seem like a nightmare.

    1. John

      Stick with it dude, it works a treat and you’ll get used to it. My fat intake is quite high on rest days. I find that omelettes, Avocados and lots of meat helps, along with cottage cheese with Pineapple.

      John

      1. Ivan

        It’s just a nightmare tho mate… there’s no gym, I just work for most of the day which isn’t that fun and all my troubles just seem even worse on these rest days. I think I’ll go with 90 grams tomorrow, I don’t think I can remain sane if I don’t. Waiting for Andy’s response.

    2. Andy Morgan

      Sure give it a go, sacrifice some fats to do that. Experiment while maintaining the calorie balance first.
      Could be that you need a diet break also.

      Other possibilities:
      Stress.
      Sleep issues.
      An idle mind leads to thoughts of food. Get busy.
      Bored with the food menu. – Get more creative.

  24. Sven

    Hey Andy is there any specific way to calculate the rep pattern for the different exercises or ist it simply adjusted by personal preference? I’m actually a bit confused because your RPT style (6-8 / 8-10 / 10-12) is quiet different from the one Martin explains in the linked article : “Reverse Pyramid Revised” where he often sticks to the same rep-range for each set.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Regarding the double progression method specifically – theoretical percentage maximums. Thus from those you can calculate whether an increase in reps would be more ‘work’ (progression of overload), or whether a small incremental increase in weight would be more work. With very low rep ranges one additional rep is more work than the smallest available increase in load (generally 2.5kg or 5lbs).

      You’d figure out a formula that way, if you wish to.

  25. Robert Brown

    Hey Andy,

    My major concern is that I workout around 7pm (after an 8a-5p work shift). When would my eating window be? I could probably do it during the day (9a-5p), but shouldn’t I eat something after my workout?

  26. Tee

    Andy,

    A few questions:

    1) If I’m feeding twice a day, can I have BCAA’s (5-15g), coffee/tea between meals – assuming it’s within the feed window?

    2) If I want to consume alcohol (500 calories-worth), can I do low-intensity cardio that day (ie – biking, hiking, etc.) to burn 500 calories and eat the normal macros and calories for that day?

    3) If I have a client lunch and can’t make up the macros at the first meal, should I eat them:
    – As soon as I can after the first meal?
    – Eat them at the second meal?
    – Just skip them for that day?

  27. Ivan

    So, 21/M here. 6’4″ (194CM)/187lbs (85kg). Lifting for 3 years now (larger part spent on the initial cutting from 30% bf and the first dirty bulk which left me with little time to build actual mass). Another reason for my lack of mass is a really large frame – I’m just too tall to fill this frame like shorter guys do within couple of years.

    So, 3rd cut in my life, going pretty great weight wise. But again, as I’ve just hit 12% or so I’m noticing an obvious lack of mass, once again. I got some great abs genetics which is probably the only upside in cutting even further to sub 10%.

    Downsides are obvious, not enough mass, gonna look to skinny and lately my strength is also dropping (12th week), so is my moral, but not in a way that I’m mentally tired for this, I want to keep progressing, whether in a standard cut, or recomp fashion. More in a way – ‘fuck, I’m doing my best here, eating well and training well to just end up losing strength just to look skinny again in the end. I comfort myself by saying ‘but yeah, I got a good lean start for a new bulk then…’
    but that just doesn’t comfort me anymore as I’ve started considering a recomp.

    Basically as I need to cut like 6 pounds more tops, I dont mind doing it over a couple of months if I could also increase strength and mass a little.

    I’m following the RPT routine without the DLs and Squats due to lowerback injury. (2 working sets instead of 3)

    Should I stick to standard -20%/+20%? Is it worth doing this whole recomp thing? Advise me. :)

  28. Landon

    Hey Andy,

    Little bit of an update for you; I nearly reached my goal of 12% BF (sitting around 12-13.5%) and am ready to bulk. I think. I hope. I feel thin.

    What do you think of this regime?

    Diet: calculated using +30% -10% (I won’t bother you with the specifics).

    Training:
    3 day split RPT.
    M: Squat, Overhead Press, Accessory
    W: Bench, Dumbbell Press, Dips, Pushups
    F: Deadlift, Barbell Row, Chin Ups

    Lifts (5RM):
    Squat- 235
    Overhead- 125
    Bench- 185
    Deadlift- 255

    Age: 21
    Height: 70 inches
    Weight: 165
    LBM: 143

    Judging by those numbers alone should I be increasing my training to “the big three”? I am concerned about increasing my calories and not having a workout intense enough to suffice.. but at the same time, squatting every two days~ is almost as mentally straining as a cut. What do you think?

    Appreciate your response, man.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Landon, good to hear from you. It’s not possible to judge these things based on age, lifting stats, height etc. Everyone is different, averages (which I know from experience) aren’t helpful for individual recommendations. See how you progress. If you can recover quickly, try more frequency (again, as long as you progress, but faster). Experiment.

  29. John

    Andy,

    Thoughts on using BCAA’s on rest days between waking and first meal? Waste of time or beneficial? I can’t see the minor calories that come with it as being a risk in weight loss, should help stave off catabolism though right?

    John

  30. Julia

    Hey Andy!

    I’ll be taking part of a fitness-model contest in july. Now the problem is I do have enough muscels but of course I still have to lose fat. So I’m having a caloric deficit of about 4000kcal per week. But now i’m starting to lose strenght, so I guess i’m starting to lose muscel. I’m not sure what to do, I don’t really want to eat more because then I wont be able to lose enough fat, but I also don’t want to lose that much muscel. So do you think I have to drop the weight? Will I lose a lot of muscel when I do that?

    My weight training looks like that: 3 weeks 3 sets of 3- 5 reps with my maximum weight and 3 weeks of 3 sets with 6 to 12 reps. switching every 3 weeks.

    Or do you think I need to change my workout routine?

    Julia

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Julia. Recommendations on calorie setting and thus maximal rates of fat loss are covered here. If you go too fast, you will lose muscle mass.
      If by going at a more conservative rate you will not have time to get lean enough for your competition, think very carefully about whether you should enter. – A lot of people leave it far too late to start cutting for a show and getting lean enough ends up costing them a year’s worth of effort in lean body mass. This of course depends on level of advancement. Don’t make that mistake.

      1. Julia

        Thank you Andy!
        I have about 8 weeks left and I suppose about 3 to 4 kg to lose. I’ll try to do that. I’ve been cutting since a while, but very slow…we’ll see how it turns out. It’s my first competition, I’m very excited :)

  31. Alexandru Vlad

    Hello Andy
    Currently struggling with a shoulder injury (no bone injury, but ligaments / supraspinatus / rotator cuff took a hefty toll), fell on it at a martial arts training (my mistake).
    Was currently during a cut, used my injured rest-days and also took a diet break. For a few days i’ve been slowly re-introducing workouts, doing mainly substitutes for squats / deadlifts (can’t do either yet) and can’t bench press heavily.
    What are you thoughts on this? Can i also resume my cut after this 10 day diet-break/workout break ? Should calorie-adjustment be a priority when re-calculating macros?

    Thanks a lot, much appreciated, buddy

  32. bear

    Hi Andy,

    I have an irregular schedule meaning that on some days, I will train at 7-8AM, but not actually come home to eat until just before 6PM.

    To maintain the 8 hour feeding window, would you advise that I break the fast at 12PM, so that I will have time to eat when I get home?

  33. Elwin

    Hey Andy,

    I just confused with my calorie intake,
    How Much Calorie should i take in a day ?
    Should i deficit the BMR or just stick with BMR ?

  34. Ivan

    Andy, do you think that stressing out / depression can cause muscle loss during a cut, BUT when nutrition, training and sleep are in check.

  35. Landon

    Andy, buddy ol’ pal.

    The cut has been going well (solid pound per week loss) and I am nearing completion. It’s been about 4-6 months of cutting, with a diet break or two throw in there. For the first time, however, I am starting to notice a few things mentally and physically:

    – Hands are ice cold. All the time. I’ve been compared to Death himself.
    – Anxiety is through the roof and I feel very foggy in the brain. Very stressed.
    – Muscle loss is starting to set in.

    The only thing I have changed throughout my cut is my macros and even then, nothing has changed in that aspect in the past few months (and I’ve noticed those issues setting in over the last month).

    Any ideas? I am eating plenty of fats (that macro has barely changed since day 1) and I get 6-8 hours of sleep a night (more towards 8), if you thought that may be related.

    1. Ivan

      Had exact same symptoms. Refeed solved it all, 2 days eating binge that set me back a lot actually but all the symptoms are gone. Didnt regain almost any strength but workouts are intesive and not agonising once again.

  36. Ivan

    Hey, me again.

    117kcal from my fish oil is sometimes becoming too annoying especially on rest day to fit in.

    How much EPA/DHA you suggest I take on a cut, on a daily / weekly basis?

      1. Ivan

        Been taking it that much in liquid form, and it’s 117 cals, and when I’m on a 2050 rest day, wasting 117 on a disgusting oil supplement sucks. :c

        1. Andy Morgan

          Yes I can imagine.
          Nordic Naturals: Ultimate Omega or NOW: Ultra Omega-3 is the good stuff. Type carefully and check the names are exact as they both sell less concentrated stuff that you don’t want.

  37. Ivan

    Hey there,

    I need you advice concerning caffeine intake. Caffeine’s been my preworkout for a while now and I’m using 400mg of it + 100mg in the morning which makes 500mg total on workout day, and about 300-400mg total on rest day. 400mg just doesn’t give me THE buzz anymore, should I keep upping or just stick to 400mg and deal with it. Please dont say cycle it, I just cant go a week without caffeine. :c

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Ivan, sounds like indeed you’ve built up a tolerance. The quickest way to get your buzz back is to go cold turkey for a week or two. Then slowly reintroduce. You’ll get caffeine withdrawal headaches but that’s just something you’ll have to suck up and deal with.

      1. Ivan

        What about upping the dose? I mean, these 400mg is just a random number I came up with, I heard people taking up to 1g. Any info on that?

  38. Ivan

    So this next weekend is Easter weekend binge eating, would you consider smart me dropping another 100-200 cals down daily these next 5 days before the Easter weekend? I don’t want to risk losing muscle tho.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Generally, I wouldn’t recommend that for psychological reasons. Note my addition to the “How to eat like a king an keep your abs post”:
      The above strategies should only be used very occasionally. I don’t recommend you make adjustments to your diet in the days previous or post to correct a planned binge or accidental binge unless you are on a deadline. It leads to a slippery slope subconsciously where you start believing that you can correct mistakes, which encourages further indulgence and jeopardises diet adherence.

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