The Leangains Overview Guide
Stop guessing, start acting.
Despite your best efforts, do you look pretty much the same as you did six months ago?
I used to understand this feeling well.
The problem is not a dearth of high quality information, no, there is simply too much of it, and the conflicting advice out there leads us to distraction.
When it comes to physique change the magic happens when you filter out all the chaff and focus on one way of doing things, and that’s what we’re going to do here.
How does two meals a day, three days a week in the gym sound?
Refreshing I would bet.
I’m not going to pretend that this is the answer to chasing your physique goals, but I honestly believe it’s the simplest method to go about it for 95% of people – busy people like you.
Learn how to develop the physique you want, right here, right now.
Learn from my mistakes.
I said above that I understood that feeling of working my ass off and not making changes.
Wind back to my early-twenties. I’m in Goa, India. I found the courage to chat to a cute girl on the beach, and I invite her out to dinner the next day. Conversation gets a little deeper, we start talking about our interests, “You know, you don’t look like you work out the amount that you do.”
There was so much truth in that statement that it hurt like a swift boot to the nuts.
See, I think I was a little nutty at that time, perhaps trying to turn myself into Jason Bourne. I was doing Karate twice, Aikido 5-6 sessions, and cramming three gym sessions into my week around work. Embarrassingly, I was also dropping around $200/month, shipping all kinds of supplements over to Japan from bodybuilding.com.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the obvious. I’m thankful for that comment, it lead me down a path where I started to discover the importance of getting your diet right to support your physique goals, the waste of money that most supplements are, and what quality training is. If you’re new to this, a friend linked you here probably, potentially you’re about to save yourself a lot of time and effort.
Are you going to keep spinning your wheels or dare to try something new?
A training or diet method is merely means of achieving your goal. Many people get hung up on a single method at the cost of progress – don’t let this be you.
Be flexible. Be open minded. Be prepared to make a change, to see a change.
Check out this client results gallery. For every client you see there are a hundred times more scattered throughout the internet. These are regular people who decided they would focus, rather than complain about genetics or something else. There are no more excuses, all the information is right here, right now.
1. Shift the focus to diet rather than training.
Emphasis on training over diet is what stopped me from seeing the changes I worked so hard for. Many people are like this.
Fat loss is 70% diet, 30% training. If that’s your goal then put your efforts in that ratio for results.
The man in the photo trains once every 3 days, for less than an hour, with no cardio. He is natural, doesn’t use fancy supplements, and used to be fat and flabby himself. His name is Martin Berkhan and is the founder of the Leangains diet system I introduce in this guide.
2. Purposefully skip breakfast.
Dieting generally isn’t very fun, but by reducing meal frequency so we can eat bigger meals it’s possible to still feel full and satisfied most of the time and yet lose weight. (Sound counter-intuitive? Worried that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Let me allay your fears here)
3. Eat more food when your body needs it.
We’ll eat more carbs on the days you weight train for recovery; less on those you rest. On training days you’ll eat more of your calorie intake after training than before.
Skip breakfast and just eat lunch and dinner.
- You can eat bigger, more satisfying meals this day while still dieting. This is referred to across the site as an ‘8 hour window’ – time frame within which you will consume all your calories for the day.
- Don’t eat anything for the other 16 hours. (A splash of milk in your coffee is fine.)
- It doesn’t have to be a perfect 8 hour window, plus or minus 2 hours if that fits your schedule is fine so think about when you usually eat with your family or friends when deciding.
- You don’t have to skip breakfast, but if you wish to try intermittent fasting it’s better socially for most people to do so. Something like 1-9pm.
- If you have irregular work hours/schedule see this guide.
Getting it right 90% of the time is good enough.
- Some days timing will be off. Don’t stress it. Yes, you can still drink on the weekend and not have to worry about your feeding window too much.
Meal frequency doesn’t matter…
- …but simplicity is your friend. Two meals (at 1pm and 8:30pm for example) or three meals is fine if you prefer.
Weight-train 3 days a week. Rest 4 days a week.
Training days: eat more carbs, reduce fat intake.
Rest days: eat fewer carbs, increase fat intake.
Keep protein high on both days.
- Leaner cuts of meat/fish for training days.
- Fattier-cuts of meat/fish on rest days.
Looking ‘ripped’ or ‘shredded’ is a function of two things: Low levels of body fat and sufficient muscle mass. You need both so don’t skimp on training.
Strength-train 3 days a week. – In the short-term anything will provide a training effect, this is why there is so much BS out there. However I think it’s better to start in the way you mean to go on.
- I believe barbells are the most effective for building strength and muscle mass. – It’s too easy to cheat yourself out of a good training effect with bodyweight work, and barbells are better for incremental loading than dumbbells. (Justification: ‘Why Barbells?‘)
- Do big compound movements and forget about the rest for now. (Squat, Deadlift, Press, Chin-ups, Bench press, Dips)
- It’ll take around an hour.
- Read this and then start with the ‘Big 3’ routine.
- If you’re not new to barbells then check out, Which Routine is for Me?
Your training times can vary. – Some people train fasted, some in the afternoon and others in the evening. You can even vary your training times. The only requirement is that you have enough time after you train to eat before going to bed. Meal timing examples here.
Can’t get to a gym? Use bodyweight exercises and workout at home for now. Example in the FAQ here.
Don’t bother with cardio for now. (Justification: ‘On Cardio for the Physique-Focused Trainee‘)
A little more detail on the diet side of things…
The hierarchy of importance for success is as follows:
What this means is that you can’t eat just ‘clean foods’ and ignore calories, you can’t supplement your way out of a bad diet, and you can’t use some special timing tricks to enable you to binge eat on the evenings.
Calorie Balance > Macros > Micros > Meal Timing > Supplements
- Calculate your calories, then,
- Calculate your macros (protein, carbs and fats) from there. – Counting macros is just a more detailed way of counting calories, so you only worry about counting the macros. I’ve written a guide to make macro counting simpler.
- If you eat a fist sized portion of fruit and veg with each meal, and vary your choices each day, you’ll likely have the micros covered.
- Timing has been taken care of in the general outline.
- Forget about supplements for now.
(All these guides above can be found by clicking the “Diet: Key set-up” link at the bottom of the post by the way.)
As I’ve worked with a lot of people I know the mistakes that people often make. Here are my top tips to avoid making them:
- Neglecting to track progress.
If you’re gaining muscle and losing fat the scale won’t show it. Furthermore, muscle is denser than fat. So if you gain 10lbs of muscle but lose 10lbs of fact you will be smaller in some places. Stay motivated by tracking your progress with a tape measure, recorded lifting stats, as well as scale weight. See my guide, ‘How To Track Your Progress When Dieting‘ Do NOT use a body-fat measurement device. (Reason)
- Not keeping to the plan.
Don’t make the classic mistake of trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
- Trying to eat out all the time.
Cook your meals for the fastest gains. It’s much easier to know what you are eating that way. Eat the same meals frequently and often for ease. – This way you only have to count the macros in each of your favourite meals once.
- Not keeping it simple.
It’s human nature to try and run before we can walk, but don’t make the mistake of making things too complicated initially. Give the simple set-up a good go first before digging deeper.
- Not getting support:
- Read the FAQ. A whole lotta love has gone into that baby and I keep editing and updating it.
- Use the comments on the site, 6500+ answered so far.
- ‘Like’ the Facebook page. Join the community and get motivated.
- Educate yourself – Many people will tell you that not eating breakfast is bad, or that if you don’t eat for 16 hours your muscles will fall off. Arm yourself with the facts. Martin Berkhan’s Top Ten Fasting Myths Debunked article is a great place to start.
- Sign-up to Fitocracy.com log your workouts, compare & get motivated by the awesome supportive community there.
The guides on this site have helped thousands of people to achieve their physique goals.
Now it’s your turn!
You will need to focus and put some effort into reading, but if you do you’ll be rewarded with a deeper understanding that will put you in charge, instead of always second guessing what you’re doing when some new fad comes along.
There are no excuses anymore, it just comes down to you. Do you want it?
(My suggested order of progression, but feel free to jump around.)