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Quick Introduction to Intermittent Fasting, Leangains and the Benefits

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent Fasting (I.F.) is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting and non-fasting. There are a few different popular types (you may have heard of The Warrior Diet, Eat.Stop.Eat or Leangains), but for now please think of I.F. as purposefully skipping breakfast. Of course, there is a little more to it than that, but for now, please think of it in those terms.

Intermittent Fasting (IF) reached a peak of popularity around one year ago. Unfortunately with this popularity came the typical fitness industry nonsense articles selling people on exaggerated expectations of what it can help do for dieters and physique focussed individuals. If you’re coming to this page through google, you’ve may well have heard an exaggerated story. Fortunately I’m here to tell you what the real deal is with Intermittent Fasting and how it may help you, without the hyperbole.

What are the benefits of IF?

  1. Reduced of hunger while dieting
    For a person looking to lose weight, this is one of the biggest benefits offered by I.F. as opposed to other dieting systems. Skipping breakfast allows for bigger, more satisfying meals. After a few days of starting the diet, the body’s hormones, notably the hunger hormone, ghrelin, get used to the new eating pattern and adjust accordingly so you no longer feel hungry in the mornings.

    “For the dieter, I.F. offers something very unique, in terms of enjoying physically and psychologically satisfying meals while losing weight. The absence of hunger and cravings are also a welcome feature when using I.F. for weight loss. Contrary to popular belief, the fasting phase has a suppressive effect on hunger. Hunger pangs may come, but they disappear quickly, to be replaced by a sense of well being and total absence of hunger.” -Martin Berkhan

     

  2. Increase in mental focus and concentration
    During the fast, your body releases more of the stimulant hormones, catecholamines. Mental focus is increased, productivity goes up, and you’ll feel more involved in whatever you’re doing. Most people find this particularly pronounced during the last 4 hours of the fast. – Your morning time at work.
  3. More stable energy levels and improved mood
    With fewer meals, your blood sugar levels will be kept more stable, leading to more stable energy levels and less mood swings. Also, not having to worry about meal timing is a welcome relief from the irritable feeling that is often found by those used to dieting by eating many meals throughout the day.
  4. More stubborn fat burned
    Fasting can help shift stubborn fat and explains why people can get exceptionally lean without cardio work. I would like to point out that this is only relevant to individuals that are already exceptionally lean in the first place, and this won’t help you unless you have the more important pieces of your diet in place – calorie intake and macronutrient intake.

For more, see Dr. Bojan Kostevski’s full review of the research into The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Human and Animal Health.

What is ‘Leangains’?

Leangains is a type of I.F. pioneered by Swedish nutritionist Martin Berkhan. It was put together based on scientific research on fat-loss, muscle building, his own experimentation and the actual experience of working with clients over the last 9 years.

I personally have used this system with myself and to coach hundreds of clients helping them in their physique journeys in the last three years.

While some nutritionists or trainers get stuck in their dogma, or are quick to jump on the latest fad to make sales or exploit our ignorance for profit, when enough solid new research comes along that suggests an improvement can be made with the method, Martin incorporates it and make the amendments necessary. It is this lack of ego and objectivity that has made the Leangains method so spectacularly effective for thousands of people. I would highly recommend you check out his blog, leangains.com.


andy-7-week-ab-comparison-bwWhy not give it a try?

Drawing on my experiences working with clients I’ve written guides on this site to show you how to do it. A lot of love has been poured into the articles and I really hope you can have success on your own like thousands of others already.

Questions welcomed in the comments on any page. Thanks for reading and good luck!

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329 Comments on “Quick Introduction to Intermittent Fasting, Leangains and the Benefits”

  1. Evoryan Zafir

    Hi Andy,

    I work a strenuous retail job (heavy box lifting, climbing ladders, etc.) four days a week in addition to working out 4 days a week. I plan to use “moderate” as an activity level. Should I just start there and tweak as needed, or should I start at a higher activity level. Thanks.

    Evo.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Evoryan, thanks for the question.
      I’d go with 1.5-1.6 to start with, then find tune from there.
      The other option would be to go with a regular multiplier (~1.3 or something like that) then increase your food intake just those hard working days specifically – by 250g carbs for example to give you an extra 1000kCal. Likewise, you’d simply adjust from there.

      Have you checked out The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet yet? I’ll be adding your question to it later today, so thank you.

      1. Evoryan Zafir

        Thanks for the quick response Andy. As a matter of fact, I already had DL’d that guide. It’s how I came up with that question. And thanks for your advice.

  2. ctaylor022

    Andy,

    Thanks for all this valuable information. It recommends to workout 3 days a week and rest four days, eating more carbs less fat on training days and more fat less carbs on rest days. I workout (weight train) 6 days a week and do not wish to change that. I am wondering if by not following this 3 day weight train and 4 day rest requirement while practicing Lean gains IF, will I experience any negative effects? Also, if this is ok, should I follow the more carb less fat method during my 6 weight training days? Thanks for your advice in advance.

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Taylor, thanks for the questions.
      It’s not necessary to only train 3 days a week with Leangains. I believe Martin’s maximum recommendation for training was 3 days in a cut, no mention of for bulking, though his preference was infrequent, very high intensity training. – Fine for some, not going to be enough for others in my opinion as those it’ll fail to drive training adaptations past a point. (Obviously some people have better genetics for growth and recovery than others though, hence the differences.)

      I’m fairly certain that these articles will prove useful for you, the first on training stress, the latter on how to set your diet up regardless of how many days you train:

      Stress: In The Gym, Out of The Gym, and How it Affects Your Program and Progress
      The Complete Guide To Setting Up Your Diet

      One key point to note from that first article: If your training has been set at 6 days a week arbitrarily, rather than out of necessary to keep pushing adaptations (because you’re an advanced trainee), you may actually hamper your gains.

      Too much training stress causing less than maximum training adaptations.

  3. Ray

    What’s up Andy,

    First of all I wanted to say that your site is great, very informative. I also wanted to ask you something. I do weight training (mon/wed/fri) and HIIT(tue/thu/sat), and just started giving IF a try. Weight training is very short in duration, just 3 core exercises, and HIIT session is also short, 20 minutes at most, peak 8 style. Everyday I go to the gym I make sure I have calories beyond maintenance level. I’ve red in here and in Martin Berkhan’s site that HIIT can be detrimental for recovery if you’re already on a calorie deficit. The thing is I’m looking to bulk. Is HIIT going to hinder my gains even though I’m on a calorie surplus for most of the time? Thanks.

  4. Hayley Mcdonald

    Great read, thanks Andy! I was wondering, I am relatively fit and not looking to lose weight, but am looking to move some stubborn fat pockets. I am a competition level touch football player (touch Rugby) which sees me training about 5 times per week (lots of cardio) and once a week doing strength training. Is there much point trying leangains to help with achieving more “lean gains” :)

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Hayley, thanks for the question.
      Your current physical/training state determines how easily you will find it to recomp. Whether there is any “point” is entirely dependent on how you see the additional effort trade-off to the benefit of being leaner (your sport and self-esteem).

      I have a series on goal setting. It’s male dominant as that’s who I work with, but there will be a lot of relevant parts in there for you as well.
      The 9 Categories of Trainee: Their Mistakes, How to Avoid Them, and What You Can Achieve When You Get Things Right (Pt.1of3)

  5. Mike

    Hey Andy! I’m a big fan of you. I am 35 years old. I workout lifting weight from 6-8 am from Monday to Friday. I usually open my window feed from 8 to 4pm. I wanna have the best results possibles and I have the chance of skipped the breakfast if it is more effective. Which is the difference between skip the breakfast or dinner?

    1. Andy Morgan

      Hi Mike. In short, skipping breakfast is usually the better thing to do for social reasons. The best diet is the one you can keep to in the long run, so you need to take that into account.

      1. Mike

        Thank you for your answer, Andy. I’m trying to lose fat (I have 19% of body fat), and I skip dinner because of my schedule. So, I thought I could burn more fat if i skip my breakfast and also I could have more energy for my workout in the mornings.

  6. Lauren

    Hi Andy,

    I’m a 20-year-old woman who attends university and lives on campus most of the year. I’m overweight, but I’ve managed to maintain a 10lbs weight loss for just under a year now by counting calories. I’m generally new to the macro counting, and definitely would like to continue my weight loss while incorporating I.F. into my school regimen as well (very convenient). How can I best track macros in a buffet-style of dining environment? I live in a dorm with only a microwave and a mini fridge, so cooking my own food isn’t an option. Thank you for your help!!!

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