For anyone who doesn’t know, Leangains, the brainchild of Martin Berkhan, is a diet approach which, if done correctly, is supposed to allow for simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain (or at least optimal muscle retention during a weight loss period, OR minimal fat gain during a muscle gain period…) The main tenet of the program flies in the face of a lot of commonly held wisdom – you only eat during an 8 hour window every day. The other 16 hours, you fast.
Some people mistakenly simplify the program down to this 16/8 fasting protocol and assume it grants some sort of magical power to eat whatever you want and still lose weight, as long as it’s all within your eight hour feeding window. Unfortunately, that’s not the case (it’d be nice though, right?) There is some evidence to suggest slight hormonal changes during a 16 hour fast which could induce a slightly higher rate of fatty acid oxidation (fat loss,) but, in general, it’s merely a means by which to control your overall caloric intake. The fast itself isn’t magic, it just makes it easier to eat at a caloric deficit.
Not only is the fast not magical, but boiling down the Leangains protocol to the simplicity of “eat 8 hours a day, don’t eat for 16,” does a huge disservice to some other vitally important aspects of the diet. I want to talk about five other recommendations from Leangains that anyone wanting to achieve a better physique can apply to their day to day lives, whether they choose to fast or not.
1) Lift Heavy
Leangains only works if you do high intensity strength workouts… something to stress your muscles and deplete a bit of glycogen. Not sure where to start? check out my Training 101 page or my Periodized Reverse Pyramid Program.
Strength training is vitally important for anyone trying to achieve a better physique, but this holds particularly true if you’re trying to benefit from the metabolic trickery at play here.
2) Eat lots of protein every day
Leangains recommends at least 1g/lb, sometimes upwards of 1.5g/lb of lean body mass. Protein fills you up, keeps you full, and is absolutely necessary for muscle synthesis. It also has a higher TEF than Carbs or Fat – eat yer meat!
3) Eat more on lifting days, emphasize carbs over fats
By eating a slight caloric surplus on days you lift, the extra calories are more likely to be used to repair your muscles. Also, by emphasizing carbs instead of fats, especially around your workout, you’re going to limit the fat gained this day. Carbohydrates have the potential to be used to replenish the muscle glycogen stores which were depleted during your workout, fats will be stored as fat.
Even when trying to lose weight, eating a caloric surplus periodically will be beneficial in the long run. It ensures your metabolism stays revved up, increases your leptin levels (a hormone intricately related to fat loss and hunger,) and helps maintain your lean muscle mass.
4) Eat less on rest days, emphasize fats over carbs
Rest days are where your fat loss really happens. Eating less calories than you use = fat loss.
Leangains emphasizes fat on off days mostly to make up for the low fat on training days. Fat is essential for maintaining your hormone balance. Since you want to keep fat intake low on training days, having more fats on rest days helps to balance this out.
In theory, you could eat a bit more carbs and a bit less fat and still lose weight as long as you keep your calorie intake under maintenance.
5) If you’re going to count something, count macros, not calories
You don’t eat calories, you eat nutrients. If you hit your protein/carb/fat numbers, you will hit your calorie goal.
For more on how to calculate and count your macros, read this article, or plug in a few numbers and hit enter. (if you’re using the calculator, I highly recommend choosing the “sedentary” activity multiplier unless you have an extremely demanding job or play a high level sport. You can always adjust upwards if you are losing weight too quickly.)
Fitness should work for you. Just because you can’t function without breakfast doesn’t mean you can’t put some of the methods behind Leangains to use. Questions? Drop a comment.
Still feel overwhelmed? Check out this guide to losing weight without counting anything. Share this: Facebook Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Digg Tumblr Related Posts: Fat – The Most Misunderstood Macronutrient What are Macronutrients and Why Should you Care? How to Dominate your New Year’s Resolution part 3 of 3: Making it Happen A Closer Look at BIGGER smaller BIGGER Meals by Macros – Sweet Potato Scramble