Leangains: The Dietary Approach

You can find the previous post in this series that discusses the workouts, right here.

I’m not going to lie to you: this could be the most controversial post of the Leangains series. I suppose the reason for that, were I to sum it up, is that the readership of this blog largely focusses on those with current or formerly damaged and broken metabolisms, and Martin Berkhan’s approach does not seem to zero in on that — at least from my perspective. A low-carb predisposition is an understandable aspect of my readership and in Martin’s case, low-carb, while being a valuable tool anyone can use, is not a requirement for all.

So I think it’s fair to say that a lot of paleo / Primal practitioners out there might not necessarily see eye to eye with all the Leangains approach to diet prescribes. But I also see this as a temporary thing for me. I simply want to get as lean as I want to be and then carry on more or less as before, though with a Leangains informed approach, which I might sum up as: lift really heavy; briefly, a couple times a week, eat lots of meat, and go good & hungry for some period almost every day. Also, from my perspective, I see Martin as highly supportive of paleo principles, but with some added tweaks owing to what he knows about the science of nutrition and conditioning.

As reported in the previous reports in this series I have thus far dropped about 10 pounds even though I often feel as though I eat more than ever.

The basic approach is simple enough and there’s lots more in The Leangains Guide:

  • You have to count calories
  • You have to track macronutrient ratios
  • No processed junk food
  • Relatively high intake of protein all the time
  • Higher carb / lower fat on workout days
  • Higher fat / lower carb on rest days

It should also be pointed out that a crucial, foundational aspect of the whole integrated Leangains method is the incorporation of intermittent fasting, 16 hours per day. We’ll cover the science of fasting in the next post in the series (and I’ll have lots to offer from my significant experience pre-Leangains) but for now just keep in mind that all this eating is done every day in the space of eight hours. Here’s just a few examples of some of the meals I eat during that eight hour window. You can also review the Food Porn category and at the end of the post I’ll give you a list to specific food posts I’ve done that highlight the high-protein spirit of Leangains. All photos I post can be clicked on for the hi-res versions.

Big Filet
Big Filet

You’re going to see lots and lots of sauces. This will really help you down the amount of protein you need to down. This way, you don’t need to choke it down at all, but savor it, wishing you had more — even after a pound or two of it has crossed your palette. And that sauce is low fat, super low carb, low calorie and Big Flavor.

Let me give you the basic method:

  1. Slowly reduce about 1/2 C of red wine per serving until you get a syrup, like a few Tbsp.
  2. Add your beef stock. I typically use about a cup of Trader Joe’s organic (per serving).
  3. Reduce the whole thing to about 1/3 C per serving.
  4. Add a pat of butter per serving.
  5. Bring to a boil and add 1/4 tsp potato starch per serving to just enough cold stock to make a slurry. Stir, watch it thicken, serve.

You can play with it, too. For instance, use some ratio of vegetable stock or mushroom stock with the beef stock. You can add spices & herbs like rosemary, sage, garlic (salt & pepper, of course). This is great with beef, venison, lamb. For chicken, pork, fish, just use white wine for the reduction and chicken stock in place of the beef (and with ratios of vegetable and/or mushroom stock too). For herbs & spices, think tarragon (my personal favorite — and less is more…hint).

What I’d suggest is to first get down the basic method and then start playing with the ratios of the stock you use and herbs & spices…or even fruit or peppers. For example, some crushed blueberries or cherries or even jalapeno peppers work wonders in the beef stock and try persimmons in the chicken stock. When you use herbs, spices, & fruits, always strain your sauce before you thicken. A wire strainer works fine.

Big Post Workout Meal
Big Post-Workout Meal

This is my favorite high protein post-workout meal. I get it at a local Harry’s Hofbrau. $12, with the iced tea. That’s about a pound of roast beef, simple beef consume (calling it “au jus” is a pet peeve — don’t do it!), about 2/3 C mashed potatoes, 2/3 C low-fat cottage cheese, and 1/2 tsp horseradish all mixed together.

That is high protein. And here’s just another variation on the same theme.

Big Meal
Big Meal

And with that, let’s get into some questions for Martin.


I notice that you require a significant amount of protein. Any particular reason(s) why? Is there any such thing as a “metabolic advantage,” or is it only calories that count?

There is a “metabolic advantage” for protein and it’s for protein only. We count protein calories per the old Atwater-formula from the 19th century that states that one gram of protein yields 4 kcal.

A more precise method of estimating energy yield for one gram of protein is by looking at the net metabolizable energy, which is calorie yield after accounting for TEF. TEF is the increase in energy expenditure that is due primarily to the metabolic cost of transporting and converting the absorbed nutrients into their respective storage forms.

Accounting for TEF, which is substantial for protein (20-30%) protein comes in at around 3-3.2 g per gram depending on the amino acid composition of the protein source. For fat and carbs, TEF is negligible; 2-7% depending on the sources and where is ends up (i.e. muscle glycogen, liver glycogen for carbs, and oxidation or storage of fatty acids). The current nutritional labeling of 4 and 9 kcal per gram is therefore not far off the mark for carbs and fat.

Needless to say, the high TEF of protein results in a metabolic advantage for the higher protein diet when comparing two equicaloric diets if we count protein as 4 kcal per gram. If the increase is substantial, i.e. if we compare a 2000 kcal SAD with 15% protein intake versus a 2000 kcal 45% protein diet, the difference will be significant. Adding to that, other advantages of high-protein diets are superior effects on satiety and better lean mass retention during weight loss.

Doesn’t a very high protein intake both stimulate insulin release and initiate gluconeogenesis? If so, why the need for the higher carbs specifically after a workout and in general on workout days?

Good question. Yes, you could probably satisfy the demand for muscle glycogen via protein only whilst following a low-volume training approach and consuming a high-protein diet.

The question is more along the lines of what’s practical and feasible, and what macronutrient is preferable for post-workout consumption if the choice stands between fat and carbs.

In between carbs and fat, carbs are the superior choice due to the insulinogenic effect and contribution to muscle glycogen. This is desirable for muscle gain and recovery. The combo of high protein and high carbs impacts gene expression related to muscle hypertrophy more so than a higher fat intake in place of carbs.

Furthermore, in the context of the Leangains approach for fat loss, there are other desirable effects of this high-carb refeed, such as the impact of carbs on leptin, which is superior for carbs.

How about insulin? One often gets the feeling in low-carb circles that it’s Beelzebub, only with more horns. What’s your take, in general? And how about to someone with a severely damaged or broken metabolism?

I don’t know where to start with that one. I’ll just say that the fear of carbs and insulin is vastly exaggerated and taken out of context. I’ve talked too much about this in the past, so you could say I’ve burned out trying to explain or defend insulin. Anyone who has spent some time on my site should get an idea of my thoughts. Most recently, I discussed the effects of insulin in Cheat Day strategies for the hedonist.

For someone with poor insulin sensitivity, I would certainly prescribe a less insulinogenic diet on training days, i.e. training days will be lower in carbs and higher in fat.

However, it’s worth noting that just about everyone seems to believe that they have poor insulin sensitivity and react poorly to carbs. Going by my practical experiences, it’s a rare phenomenon. I’ve asked hundreds of people via my questionnaire that I send out for consultations and 8 or 9 out of 10 will note that they react poorly to carbs, or imply it by stating that they do much better with low-carb diets. It never turned out to be the case when they started following my approach with large post-workout meals, sometimes of more than a hundred carbs in one sitting. Their “poor insulin sensitivity” and low carb tolerance simply never manifested itself as they would have predicted.

I think people tend to think of their reaction to carbs in extremes, such as: “How do I feel when I eat a large bowl of Cornflakes/rice/bread” (Insert other high-GI high-carb meal here that includes hundreds of fast-digesting carbs), etc. Just about anyone will get drowsy and lethargic after such meals. It’s quite a different thing from eating a big plate of veggies, potatoes, and meat. Meal composition and carb sources matter a great deal.

So what makes the Leangains approach superior to other dietary regimes you’ve seen and tried? If it’s not just about the calories, what is it?

From a behavioral point of view, which is the most important aspect to consider for long-term health and weight control, Leangains is very easy to follow for a lot of people. In the context of dieting, it’s also a very attractive approach since you get to eat large meals to fullness whilst still losing fat.

From a physiological point of view, the Leangains approach incorporates controlled overfeeding and underfeeding in a strategic manner that may provide superior nutrient partitioning effects. I’m saying “may” because it’s impossible to find hard evidence for this in the scientific literature. But in practical terms, you are providing a surplus of calories at a time where they are most likely to be used for muscle building and recovery. As protein synthesis levels off, so does calorie intake. I don’t think it’s a far-fetched hypothesis that timing overfeeding in this manner would be beneficial for body composition. In bodybuilding lingo, you’re basically bulking for one third of the day and cutting for two thirds of the day. Furthermore, the strategic refeeds provides a timely leptin-boost that may be of benefit to fat loss, metabolic rate, and other parameters related to leptin (such as libido, testosterone, etc). It is also interesting to speculate whether there is any synergy of intermittent fasting and refeeding after workouts. I could talk a lot about this topic and I will elaborate more when the time comes.

Lastly, from a health perspective, intermittent fasting may be beneficial. I should note that this is a relatively new area of research that has only really started to take off in the last five years. However, the effect of intermittent fasting on health parameters such as blood lipids, insulin sensitivity and protection against certain diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) looks promising.

Finally, it’s gonna be asked so we might as well touch on it here: what are the pros & cons of drinking your protein?

There are no pros of drinking your protein unless it’s in the context of quickly increasing amino acid levels in the blood, such as in the case of fasted training. In other cases, whole food protein is the superior choice due to the effects on satiety.

Learn to eat and chew your protein. It might seem hard at first if you’re not used to it, but you will get used to it and eventually learn to enjoy it. Adapting to a habitual high-protein diet is one of the most important changes you can do for long-term body fat control. An indirect effect of this will likely be better health and more muscle as well.


And now here is a number of food posts over the months since I began Leangains that serve to show you the spirit of the thing, not only in a high-protein theme, but perhaps more importantly, shattering the notion that a leaning, even body building program necessitates bland and boring meals (dry chicken breasts, protein powders, tubs of cottage cheese, and so on).

I know that most of my regular readers have seen many of those food posts. I might suggest that it’s interesting to see them all again one after the other.

But my main reason for doing all those is for Martin’s readers who’re not regulars here. Martin doesn’t focus a whole lot on food preparation, gourmet, or anything like that, so here’s now someplace he and his advocates can send people to demonstrate that….

You can have a lot of fun eating a lot of protein.

Next up, we’ll delve into intermittent fasting, the core foundation of the Leangains method.

Update: While reading the comments tonight, I fixed this. All elements included. Click to hi-res it.

Filet Sirloin Potatoes
Filet & Sirloin & Potatoes

That’s a grassfed filet and a grassfed sirloin (the wife got 2-3 slices :). Did the sauce thing in the basic fashion, i.e., the three ingredients plus the starch to thicken. Here’s an added tip I didn’t mention: when the wine is almost there, add the butter and fire it up in order to brown the solids a bit. Adds a lot of flavor. Oh, that’s 3/4 white sweet potato mixed with 1/4 orange.

I might mention that I didn’t have any chance to add or rework anything after getting Martin’s answers and the one thing I’d have to emphatically agree with is where he describes the distinction between a high-carb meal of rice crispies (or whatever) vs. one of veggies and/or potatoes. I have never felt anything but great and invigorated after. He’s so right about that. After a deadlift session today of 315 x 3 and 285 x 4 (and the other stuff) and a post workout meal of a culotte steak, fruit, cottage cheese, hard boiled egg and some veggies, this rounded out the evening along with some scotch and one of the macadamia nut cookies my wife is fixing for holiday baskets.

Life is good.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Johnn on December 14, 2010 at 14:38

    I’m pretty sure Martin will say that it depends and it does because everyone is a bit different. Lots of stuff go into determining calorie and nutrient intakes. Age, activity levels, carb sensitivity….list gets long.

    He’s already given good guidelines in the Leangains guide – . Lots of people including me has had great success using those fundamentals. I don’t blame him for wanting to save some details for the book.

  2. Michael on December 14, 2010 at 16:36

    Why has nobody talk about the protein fluff yet???

  3. Jeff on December 14, 2010 at 16:42

    I am curious on how you decided on the 45% of calories (I am assuming a hypocaloric intake) as protein. Why not 30, 40, or 50% of calories as protein? What research demonstrates that 45% of calories from protein is the sweet spot for a weight/fat loss diet?

    • Martin Berkhan on December 14, 2010 at 23:47

      I used those figures to illustrate a point. (15% SAD vs 45% high-protein diet)

      e.g. increase protein to three times the amount in the Standard American Diet and you’ll get a metabolic advantage that will result in better fat loss in the long-term due to the difference in TEF.

      • Jeff on December 15, 2010 at 11:21

        Yes, I get your point of the TEF difference between these two amounts. But, isn’t a 45% protein intake what you recommend? Therefore, it is not just for illustration, but is the intake people should have for better fat loss.
        I agree that protein intakes higher than the SAD (15%) are good for losing wt and keeping it off. But, again, I am curious on how you settled on 45% protein? Why not recommend 60% as this would potentially elicit a 400% increase in TEF relative to the SAD intake and probably decrease appetite even more? Also, why not use a particular g/kg/day intake recommendation instead of a % of calories. According to Layman and others, the method based on size (total BW or lean tissue) is probably the better approach to keep the proper intakes when there are hypocaloric intakes.

      • Marc on December 15, 2010 at 19:48

        Just a guess but I bet he pegged it there through self experimentation. I mean I have to imagine he knows what worked for him…and his clients.

      • Jeff on December 16, 2010 at 09:48

        I agree that it might have been through self-experimentation. Hopefully Martin will give us his reasoning for his 45% protein recommendation. Back to self-experimentation; there are many potential problems with the “it worked for me” then it will work for you mindset. Not that I am knocking self-experimentation, I think it is a good way to help find out what will work for a particular person. The problems have to do with problems associated with anecdotal information. There are a number of cognitive pitfalls that make it very challenging to have a clear and unbiased view of what is really happening. This also applies to the clients he works with. I too have worked with many clients over the past 15 years and have seen some trends, but I really feel that it is very hard to ascertain exactly what the person is doing. I usually would see my clients for 30 minutes two to three times a week. That leaves a lot of time that I really don’t know what they are doing. Anyway, there is no doubt that his clients have had great results; the problem is in pinpointing what the causal agent was for their transformations. People are notoriously bad at recalling what they actually eat or estimating how much they actually eat as well as other interpretations of their behaviors. Again, this is not to say that some people can do this very well and really know what caused their change, but it usually is hard to decipher what the true causal agents are. For example, when someone decides to change how they look there are usually MANY things that they change, i.e., exercise, eating habits, and some cognitive aspects like deciding to actually do something, maybe also setting some specific goals, to name a few things. Because they REALLY want to change this time, this itself my allow them to feel less hungry and it may not be due to their change in diet/protein intake. Not to say that protein does not help to reduce hunger, it does. There are placebo effects and many other confounders that minimize the ability to ascertain what the real causative factors are which is the inherent problems with anecdotal information. This is why clinical research that tries to minimize confounders along with statistical analysis is so important for finding out what are the causal agents and not just associated behaviors. This process is not perfect, but when it is done properly it gives us some quality information.

      • Jeff on December 16, 2010 at 20:45

        I too have been unable to find a specific protein intake or even a range of intake. All that I have found regarding protein intake is “Protein is kept high on all days”.

        Regarding the 45% protein intake. Why use this level of intake as an example if it is not what he is recommending or close to it? Like the 60% I mentioned in an earlier post, this example illustrates that the potential increase TEF/MA would be 400% more than the SAD (15%). But I would not recommend such a high level of protein and I have yet to see anyone recommend this amount of protein even though it has this potential metabolic advantage. However, it is not reality so it really doesn’t matter. My point is why not use the % of protein that he typically recommends to illustrate his point regarding the potential metabolic benefits of higher intakes of protein. This would give a more realistic view of what might occur in real life.

        Why does it seem the protein intakes are so secretive? He is very clear that “Protein is kept high on all days”. What does high mean? Why not just say, for example, “protein intakes will range from 30-40% of calories or 1.7-2.0g/kg/day, with the specific amounts for a particular individual depending on a number of variables, such as training day or not, main goals, etc.”? Is that really giving away to much info?

        You know what could clear up this confusion? A few sentences from Martin.

      • Jarrett on December 17, 2010 at 01:09

        I’m not confused at all, and I think you’re over-thinking this.

        He’s said 1g/lb/day already. And clients have different goals, so giving a % isn’t ideal. If I’m trying to lose weight, 40% protein for me isn’t the same for someone trying to gain and using 40%.

        I’m sure he didn’t say 60% instead of 45% because 45% is the first number that came to his head for an arbitrary example.

        You should read this post by Lyle McDonald to see why you’re missing the mark with your need for a %. Check out part 1 too just to catch up.

      • Jarrett on December 16, 2010 at 18:15

        I didn’t read this last massive wall of text, but from reading his site and many articles several times, he doesn’t really give a specific % of what protein should make up of total calories, 40% or otherwise. I’m sure because it’s dependent on goals of his clients.

        All I ever remember seeing is 1g/lb of bodyweight or maybe more depending on the person. A certain % isn’t even mentioned in the Lean Gains Guide on his site. He just used 45% as an example for that specific question.

      • Jeff on December 17, 2010 at 09:24

        I agree with you that using the % method is not the best way of setting up a diet. I had mentioned that in an earlier post.
        Here is what I said earlier;
        Also, why not use a particular g/kg/day intake recommendation instead of a % of calories. According to Layman and others, the method based on size (total BW or lean tissue) is probably the better approach to keep the proper intakes when there are hypocaloric intakes.

      • Jeff on December 17, 2010 at 13:17

        Could you please show me where Martin says “1g/lb/day”. I have looked through his blog as well as re-read this post, I have been unable to find that particular statement, but I could have certainly missed it. Because you have seen this I figured it would be easy for you to get me to where he said this. Thanks

      • Jarrett on December 17, 2010 at 14:17

        Sure, here is one article:

        Just scroll down to “Protein.”

        Another one where mentions “adequate protein for lean dieters” is around 1.5g/lb:

        That one is long so go down to the Addendum, Myth #5.

        Both 1 and 1.5 grams/lb are right in line with what I’ve seen recommended by Lyle McDonald(someone Martin links to often) and others as well.

        This may not be the concrete answer you want but hopefully that helps.

      • Jarrett on December 17, 2010 at 01:14

        I tried to reply but think my comment got screwed up. Either way, I think you’re over-thinking this. I believe he said 45% instead of 60% or 100% because 45% is the first number that popped into his mind, and also a somewhat realistic figure.

        And %s aren’t the best way of setting up a diet because if Martin says “Eat 40% of calories from protein” but you’re gaining weight and I’m trying to lose weight this figure could be totally different.

        You can calculate for your own goals how much 1g/lb or more equals as a % of your caloric intake.

      • Jeff on December 17, 2010 at 16:46

        Thanks Jarrett, here is what I found

        First one; “You’ll often hear that 1 g protein/lb body weight is a good guideline for muscle gain. That’s true”
        Okay at least some kind of reference to a specific amount. However, still pretty vague with respect to what he actually recommends. It might be true but how much does he think is a good amount. Also, how much if you are just trying to maintain your lean tissue and lose body fat? Is this not what a majority of people are really trying to achieve?

        Second one; “But what if they had been given sufficient amounts of solid protein (e.g. 1.5 g/lb lean body mass) at those same intervals?”…“usually means 1.5 g/lb lean body mass for lean dieters”
        Important to realize that this amount is based on LEAN BODY MASS, not overall weight. Again, this is still a vague reference. It was actually referring to s study with male boxers. Does this mean it is good amount for a 35 year old female trying to lose 20lbs?

        Anyway, let’s use the give numbers to find out how much protein should be ingested by someone who’s main goal is to lose 20lbs of fat and maintain their current level of lean tissue.
        John Smith, male, 30 years old, 200lbs, 15% bodyfat, moderate activity, fat loss
        Maintenance calories would be about 2,600 cal/day, so let’s cut back 600 cal/day, leaving us with 2,000 cal/day
        Based on his bodyweight and using the 1g/lb/day formula his daily protein intake should be 200gram which would equal 40% of his daily calorie intake
        Using the 1.5g/lean body weight/day formula, (15% body fat) his daily protein intake should be 255 grams which would equal 51% of his daily calorie intake.

        So is 45% of calories really the “first number that popped into his mind” or “because 45% is the first number that came to his head for an arbitrary example” or “a somewhat realistic figure”? It is likely the latter of these possibilities. So it does seem likely that 45% of calories is likely to be in the range of recommended protein intakes.

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 15:25

        I’ve already explained why I used the 45%-figure for protein. It’s not what I recommend all across the board. Not sure where you got that from.

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 16:52

        Oh yeah, for sure. 45% is definitely a good figure and I have used it many times. Most certainly in the range of recommended protein intakes as you put it.

        It’s just weird the way you’re trying to frame it, as if this was some magic number that I use across the board.

  4. VW on December 14, 2010 at 10:31

    Thank you for this series of articles. Great stuff. Much appreciated.

    I’ve been eating within a 7-hour window these last few weeks. It’s been easy and I feel absolutely great.

    • austin on March 11, 2011 at 13:30

      i cant seem to find the macro ratio for off days and on days lol i don’t think they exist it be nice if i had them for buliding muscle and losing fat doing the fasting leangains approach

  5. Johnn on December 14, 2010 at 10:38

    Awesome interview!

    I agree 100% with Leangains & IF being a damn easy and enjoyable diet approach to follow for fat loss and bodyrecomposition.

  6. Dr. G on December 14, 2010 at 10:41

    win-win situation :)

    keep up the good work

  7. Woody on December 14, 2010 at 10:46

    Great post Richard! I’ve been reading through the Lean Gains blog trying to figure out his nutritional strategy from a layman’s perspective, and this post did a wonderful job of explaining it.

    If you don’t mind, how do you (or anyone) decided how many calories to consume for their needs ie weight gain, maintenance , weight loss?

    I am 5’10”, weigh 115 lbs and can’t put on weight if my life depended on it, or rather, I can’t keep it on. I’ve tried shakes, MRPs, 8 meals a day, you name it and nothting seems to work. I have had blood work done twice and all of my numbers (TSH, etc) came back normal.

    • Skyler Tanner on December 14, 2010 at 11:05

      Start at BW x 20 and go up from there. No matter how fidgety you are, you’ll eventually start to put on weight. Drink your calories if you have to.

      • mike on December 14, 2010 at 14:39

        yea id suggest starting strength and the gallon of milk a day protocol.

  8. Justin on December 14, 2010 at 10:49

    Nice post Richard (and Martin)!

    As someone following Leangains, I initially found two things difficult (coming from more of a low-carb/paleo background):

    – Getting in enough protein
    – Not eating too much fat

    That said, with the help of some protein powder (usually only necessary on workout days as non-workout days require less protein), I’ve found I can usually manage pretty well. Otherwise I find it hard to eat enough LEAN protein and still keep fat low on workout days.

    One thing LG diet has helped me understand is that low-carb is important if you’re going to eat high-fat — but if you’re going to eat high-carb, DON’T eat high-fat, too — the reason being that in the presence of a lot of insulin, the fat is going to get stored. This isn’t so much a problem when low-carbbing and high-fatting b/c of the lack of insulin. This is my simple conceptualization of this, so I’m curious if Martin or Richard would agree.

    And why high-carb at all? Offset negative effects of dieting the other 4 days of the week you’re not working out (1), and (2) nutrient partitioning — match macros to activity (heavy lifting).

    Anyway, one last comment on TEF — I’ve noticed very consistently that I get hot after my big post-workout, post-fast meal — where I consume upwards of 125 – 150 gm of protein. Never noticed TEF before, but it’s definitely there when I eat this much food.

    • Martin Berkhan on December 14, 2010 at 11:40


      If you eat a high-fat meal, you’ll store that fat just fine with only base levels of insulin. Happens via acylation stimulating protein.

      But it’s a moot point, given that some protein sources are insulinogenic and some protein sources even more so than an equivalent amount of carbs.

      The fact that you’ll store fat from high-fat meals is also a moot point, given that fatty acids are continuously trafficked in and out of adipose tissue. In after meals and out in between meals.

      • Justin on December 14, 2010 at 11:49

        So it boils down to calories in/calories out with protein having a metabolic advantage due to the satiating effect and the TEF?

        High-carb diets and non-IF eating seem to both work against insulin sensitivity — do you think the real culprit to insulin getting a bad name (and being looked at as something that should be avoided like the plague) may have something to do with high-carb/non-IF eating leading to impaired insulin sensitivity, which in turn sparks any number of health problems?

      • Mallory on December 14, 2010 at 13:26

        just a thought, but maybe since protein elicits a measurable insulin response which is longer lasting than carbs, and common folk who eat 4-6 times a day are getting that extended level-raised insulin from protein coupled with even more raised insulin with carbs and constant feedings, are storing fat and giving carbs a bad name. prolly would lead to inflammation and insulin resistance as well.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 14, 2010 at 12:42

      Yea Justin, a high protein meal lights up a furnace in me like nothing else.

  9. Mallory on December 14, 2010 at 10:54

    THAT SAUCE…. i have been waiting for a basic run down on how to start it and make it!!!!!!!!!!!! halleluia (even tho your atheist lol)

    i agree with martin, insulin is way procrastinated into something it simply is not. and not to mention how he said people who deem themselves insulin resistant, as i once swore to, are not. i get a much higher prolonged insulin surge from protein than i do from carbs. when i do a lower fat high carb meal i can usually get my BS to spike around 130, but an hour later it’s back down to 95, and usually ends up in the 80’s post 16 hours

    • Jim Arkus on December 14, 2010 at 11:43

      Me too! I tried googling wine reduction sauces a couple times, but they never seemed to taste like I imagined your pictures would taste, if that makes any sense. I know what I’m having for dinner tonight.

      • rob on December 14, 2010 at 12:32

        Same here, sauces have always been a mystery to me, Richard explained it in a way even a caveman could understand.

      • Richard Nikoley on December 14, 2010 at 12:45

        Key is to get the red wine reduced to the consistency of cough syrup first, then butter, then a quality beef stock reduced by 75%, then just enough potato starch in a cold stock slurry (otherwise, it will lump & clump) to thicken. herbs, spices, fruits or peppers as desired.

      • Mallory on December 14, 2010 at 13:29

        DROOLING…. i have never bought wine in my life, gotta find some after work. any recommendations?

      • Richard Nikoley on December 14, 2010 at 13:51

        Don’t go expensive for a reduction. 2 buck chuck is fine.

        BTW, you can do the same with balsamic. Get the less expensive stuff and reduce and it rivals those high end products in taste.

      • JimS on December 15, 2010 at 13:06

        Absolutely, on the balsamic. Did a reduction for a sauteed liver deal the other day and my wife actually enjoyed it !

      • trog on December 17, 2010 at 16:49

        Would you use the same amount (1/2 cup) of balsamic in that recipe?
        When i have some wine I’d rather drink it… *cough*

  10. C. August on December 14, 2010 at 11:05

    I’ve started a Leangains-type regime based on your posts and Martin’s site, but haven’t fully moved into the fasted workout, drinking BCAA drinks, etc., mold and probably won’t. (see Martin’s site and the fasted workout post) So far, I’m really enjoying the lifting, as I was getting tired of my modified Body By Science regime and my gains there were slowing way down. Deadlift workout tonight, and I’m looking forward to it!

    I have a simple logistical question for Richard about sauces.

    How long does it take you to make a sauce, and do you have any tricks for speeding it up? I have a full-time job, long commute, and two young kids. Making a good paleo dinner is hard enough to find time for without adding in a reduction sauce that takes 30 mins. Any ideas for “sauces on a time budget?”

    • Richard Nikoley on December 14, 2010 at 12:50

      It would be tough to do it in less than 30 minutes. Usually I do it concurrently with other stuff like the veggies roasting in the oven (~20 minutes) and then the meat on the grill (~10 minutes) so a meal with a sauce usually takes my 30 minutes because I’m very used to mutitasking like that.

      What you could do is make a big batch, i.e., reduce a whole bottle of red wine, then add a coupe of quarts of stock and reduce by 75% then put it in the fridge. Then you just bring a portion to a boil, add any herbs, spices, fruits, peppers you like, strain, add butter and thicken.

      • C. August on December 14, 2010 at 13:30

        Thanks. I’ll just add the sauce-making to my multi-tasking list like you suggested. 30 mins isn’t too bad. I made a sauce this summer and the kids loved it, even though I burned it a bit by trying to cook it too fast. Object lesson confirming what I suspected.

  11. Dan on December 14, 2010 at 11:08

    I wouldn’t always consider paleo low carb. Isn’t it just whole foods as we would find while hunting and gathering.

  12. MountainDew on December 14, 2010 at 11:40

    It’s about damn time we got another LG post. I pay good money for this blog and … oh wait.

    Richard, you should really consider a cookbook!

    Question for MB, you advise LC/HF on non-workout days and LF/HC on workout days but what would be the calorie %’s (keeping protein constant of course)? How low should one go with each nutrient (20%)?

    • Bryan Rankin on December 14, 2010 at 12:06

      I would buy your cookbook.

      • Marc on December 14, 2010 at 16:52

        I would too.

      • Jim Arkus on December 15, 2010 at 05:21


  13. Jay on December 14, 2010 at 11:53

    I love Martin’s stuff and I think IF/LeanGains is pretty damn interesting.

    However, here’s what I don’t get. It all seems to be geared towards fat loss always being the big primary goal. Yeah, building muscle is sometimes mentioned as well, but it’s always more of a secondary thing with fat loss always being #1 in terms of importance.

    But what about when building muscle (while minimizing fat gains) is a person’s big primary goal?

    Does Martin have some sort of LeanGains diet and training approach for that? I’ve looked, but I never seem to find much.

    This leads me to assume (correctly or incorrectly) that LeanGains (and maybe IF in general) is a little less relevant when fat loss isn’t the #1 goal of the trainee.

    Am I wrong?

    • Martin Berkhan on December 14, 2010 at 11:59

      It’s more commonly used for fat loss.

      I have used it with great success for muscle gain personally and so have many clients (<— you'll see plenty of examples very soon).

      One issue with muscle/weight gain is the sheer amount of food. It's a problem for some. Certainly not for me.

      • Jay on December 14, 2010 at 12:13

        Wow, that was quick. Thanks Martin. Looking forward to seeing those examples.

        I can imagine that having to consistently eat near 4000 (or more) calories daily within an 8 hour window would be pretty tough (which is the opposite of what makes IF seem so ideal for fat loss). That’s another part of why I’m interested in hearing what you recommend when muscle gain is the primary goal.

        I had always figured it would be something like a surplus on training days and maybe maintenance on off days with the majority of the calories on training days coming in the post workout window? That’s sort of what I’m planning on doing my next bulk.

        I’m also really interested in hearing more about your training approach when hypertrophy is the primary goal. The stuff I’ve read by you so far is always low volume and seemingly low frequency (hitting everything once per week, which, while perfectly fine for fat loss is usually not recommended for optimal muscle growth).

        Just more stuff for you to add to your never ending to-do list. =)

      • Mallory on December 14, 2010 at 13:32

        i gained 20lbs in 9 months :) girl can eat…

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 15:20

        I’ll be writing more about training soon.

  14. rob on December 14, 2010 at 12:29

    I’ve really been chowing on the cottage cheese in recent weeks, makes it much easier to get your protein in. I eat as much as a pound and a half with dinner.

  15. Nick on December 14, 2010 at 12:52

    Great series. I’m a huge fan of Martin’s work.

    I’ve got a couple of questions for you guys:

    1. When you say higher fat/lower carb and lower fat/higher carb, how low/high are we talking here? Does the amount matter, or is it more about the ratio of fat:carb?

    2. Also, when looking for fat loss, about how many calories should be eaten? For a 150lb male, is 2400 on workout days, and 1500-1800 on rest days appropriate?


    • jimbeaux on December 14, 2010 at 13:03

      “Also, when looking for fat loss, about how many calories should be eaten?”


      and, macronutrient percents – could not find it anywhere on your site.

  16. VW on December 14, 2010 at 14:42


    Any word on the IE issue with accessing your site?

  17. josh on December 15, 2010 at 06:34

    I’ve just been doing the daily IF, without much working out, and already losing weight and feeling better. I think you just have to try it. It is pretty simple to try it for a few weeks, then if you don’t notice any difference — it is not for you.

  18. David on December 14, 2010 at 18:30

    Great post thanks! I’ve been trying to do IF for a few weeks and its very helpful to have more meal ideas like yours.
    IF is so much easier than the old 6 meals a day nightmare I’ve tried in the past!

  19. Jarrett on December 14, 2010 at 18:43

    Wow, great post just for the food. I’m a follower of Martin’s site but never followed this one until this collaboration. Martin’s site is great but doesn’t have many recipes.

    I think that meatza is the first thing I’m gonna try.

  20. Eric on December 14, 2010 at 19:22

    This is so awesome.
    Thank you for this one mate.
    Sorry I’ve been such a PITA about it.

  21. Richard Nikoley on December 14, 2010 at 20:56

    All you getting email notification, I just posted an update with a meal photo, another sauce tweak, and some commentary on Martin’s answers I didn’t get a chance to elaborate on in the original.

    He’s right: carbs are not created equal.

    • C. August on December 15, 2010 at 03:07

      Just saw the update. If you don’t mind my asking, when in the day did you do your workout and your first feeding? And how long did you wait until you had the sirloin/potato meal?

      I ask because I did a deadlift session last night at 5:30, and had a giant plate of Mark Sisson’s brisket and potatoes (a good lb of meat plus everything else) at 6:30 and there was no way I was going to eat anything else afterward. Of course I did have an eggnog and cognac a bit later.

      I’m just trying to figure out the 8hr feeding window thing when I can’t get a workout in until late. Have you tried to do fully fasted workouts?

      • Richard Nikoley on December 15, 2010 at 07:53

        C August

        Almost all my workouts are fasted and have been for nearly three years, even pre-Leangains. My current eating window is around noon to 8pm. If I don’t hit the 8 hours it’s usually to shorten it, i.e., I might not get around to eating until 1-2 and I may eat early like 6-7. The only time the fast is shorter than 16 hours is like a weekend party or something where I might be eating something up to 10pm. I try to get my workout in in the 10-11am slot (it was 11:30, yesterday), eat 12-1 and then have dinner. On the workout days I might have a can of tuna in between, a fantastic source of lean protein at about 40g per can, and I get the best stuff on earth, packed in its own juices and it’s damn good right out of the can, with nothing.


        Back when I was first doing fasting my fasts were 2x per week in advance of my workout day, 24-30 hours and I was doing my workout in the 22-28 hours fasted window. I adapted to that really quickly, was about 220+ when I started and rapidly went to 210, bit slower to 200, slower still to 190, even slower to 180, then I went up to about 184/5 where I picked up Leangains and am now bouncing in the 173-5 range.

      • Marc on December 15, 2010 at 19:52

        When are you going to update pictures?

  22. CrossFit 312 » Blog Archive » 12.15.10 on December 14, 2010 at 22:04

    […] article: lean gains: the dietary approach […]

  23. Stu on December 15, 2010 at 00:05


    Glad to see you are sticking with the leangains approach! I’ve been very skeptical of the ultra-low carb sect of the paleo crowd after experimenting with short term low-carb and ketogenic diets myself. I personally find it’s much easier to use a calorie counter such as Fitday if I’m concerned with cutting bodyfat. This eliminates the guesswork, keeps you honest and allows much more healthy macronutrient ratios. Low carb can reek havoc with hormones, sex drive, muscle building, mood and sleep. IMO, calorie counting is the simplest, healthiest method of lowering bodyfat. How do you find calorie counting works for you?


    • Richard Nikoley on December 15, 2010 at 07:26


      Calorie counting is the only thing I don’t like about it. I was able to lose 50-60 pounds by not counting so I see no reason why I’ll not be able to stop counting once I get rid of this last stubborn 10 pounds. Then, I’ll simply always keep the protein high and just go leaner meats and no added fats with a potato or two on workout days and do fatty meat & fat on rest days. but without really counting.

      • Rob on December 16, 2010 at 08:28


        I admire you for going through with this experiment. Personally, I despise calorie counting as it tends to be a source of anxiety when I think that I can’t eat anymore because I’ve already reached my caloric limit. I’d be interested to know what your level of hunger was like using this approach as opposed to your hunger level during your previous 50-60 pound weight loss.

      • Richard Nikoley on December 16, 2010 at 10:15

        Was already quite experienced with fasting usually a couple of time per week, 24-30 hours with my workout deeply into the fasted state. So, no problems doing 16 hours even though it’s every day.

  24. JLL on December 15, 2010 at 00:06

    For those who want to know more about the health effects of intermittent fasting (I did a 24/24-hour cycle for a year), I have quite a few posts on the subject on my blog:


    I was mainly doing it for the potential lifespan extending effect, which I no longer believe exists.

    • Martin Berkhan on December 15, 2010 at 01:35

      “While humans generally compensate for a fast by eating twice as much the next day, mice and rats generally don’t. They do eat more, but not twice as much – which means they are calorie restricted.”


      By all means, feel free to provide your evidence. I know one such study off hand but that was not an ad lib study, which makes your point moot.

      I can cite several studies on ad lib ADF, on top of other studies that show spontaneous fat loss with a restricted feeding window.

      Furthermore, studies on Ramadan fasting shows a trend towards weight loss that is statistically significant and further supports that humans do not compensate that well when constrained to a restricted feeding window.

      Your argument for why we don’t have evidence for increased longevity in humans from IF is rather strange

      “The reason you see studies showing increased longevity from IF in the first place is because most rodents eat less when they fast every other day. While humans generally compensate for a fast by eating twice as much the next day, mice and rats generally don’t. They do eat more, but not twice as much – which means they are calorie restricted.”

      The reason you don’t see studies showing increased longevity from IF in the first place is because there are no human populations that practice IF on a chronic basis and/or those that practice fasting in periods, such as Christians and Greek Orthodox Christians, are subject to numerous confounders. They’re healthier and live longer but no study has attempted to separate the effect of fasting and the lower body weights/healthier diets on life span in these populations.

      So, your belief is not grounded in facts, if you are asserting that there is no lifespan extending due to perfect calorie compensation (fasting –> ad lib refeeding = no net deficit).

      But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Whether IF has an independent and unique effect on longevity is impossible to say. A lot of this boils down to telomere length. One of the world’s most prominent longevity-researcher believe that life span is 80% determined by genetics.

  25. […] Sauce Ingredients for 2 servings- inspired by Richard Nikoley @ Free The Animal and his recent post – Leangains: The Dietary Approach […]

  26. rob on December 15, 2010 at 05:27

    Today the New York Times has an article on exercising in a fasted state


    The key imo is that despite equal amounts of exercise and equal caloric intake, the group that exercises in a fasted state is leaner than the group that eats prior to exercising.

  27. Cheryl on December 15, 2010 at 05:51

    I got right here:

    ■You have to count calories
    ■You have to track macronutrient ratios

    and stopped reading. Richard, Martin – I have all the respect in the world for you guys and I think it’s spectacular what you’ve accomplished. But I’m recovering from metabolic syndrome AND doing everything humanly possible to avoid OCD triggers so these two items are, in my case, a recipe for failure. Every time that I’ve weighed and measured in the past ended in nuclear meltdown. I’ve had people suggest “estimating” but my ability to visually size up the mass of something is non-existant. If you have any other suggestions I would love to hear them because right now I’m feeling pretty screwed.

    • C. August on December 15, 2010 at 06:07

      OK, you’ve got some important goals and issues to deal with, so it sounds like this isn’t for you. Why stress about it?

      Remember that Richard is doing this because, even though he was healthy and doing well, he wanted to push himself just that much further and go for as low bodyfat % and as much muscle and strength gain as he could reach after plateauing on his old strategy. I don’t see that what he’s working on right now in any way wipes out his earlier advice/examples of a more “regular” paleo diet.

      My guess, based on your comment, is that you’ve been pursuing that “regular” paleo diet, right? Is it working? Does it fit your lifestyle, goals, and extenuating circumstances? If so, stick with it and don’t count calories or track anything.

      • Reid on December 15, 2010 at 09:21

        Good point C. August. I think people have to remember that the Leangains approach does not mean paleo approach. The way I interpret Leangains is that it is for someone who is trying to take their body to the next level. I think it is fair to say that someone who is overweight and looking to lose fat would have much success on the “paleo” approach by restricting carbohydrate (much like Richard). This would not require calorie counting or worrying too much about macronutrient ratios.

        On the flip side, it you are already pretty lean and looking to increase strength while maintaining a relatively low bodyfat %, I think Leangains is an excellent approach.

        It’s all about defining your goals and finding the best strategy to get you there.

      • Cheryl on December 15, 2010 at 16:06

        I’ve been doing pretty strict Paleo since September and it’s worked great. Every single one of my auto-immune symptoms is gone. But everywhere I turn these days, even in Paleo circles, I find people weighing and measuring and tracking their nutrients, macros, etc. and making even more progress. Now that you mention it though, it’s entirely possible that all those other people who are adding that additional element to their diet may be doing so for specific reasons. I appreciate you pointing that out. I’m making sufficient progress without that right now. Thanks!

  28. Matthew on December 15, 2010 at 09:50

    I guess my question to Martin would be about Taubes and his work. Do you disagree with his research, see yourself lining up with his research, or falling somewhere in between?

    I know the whole paleo community treats GCBC like it’s the bible, so it’d be interesting to hear what you have to say on the matter (either Richard or Martin).

  29. Martin Berkhan on December 15, 2010 at 10:16

    There’s not much I agree with Taubes about, except his statement that dietary epidemiology is bullshit (i.e. the “science” behind the American Dietary Guidelines).

    • Jacob on December 15, 2010 at 11:22

      Do you think dietary epidemiology is even worthless to establish hypotheses to test with controlled experiments? I think it is useful for this, but useless as evidence.

      I’ve been using Leangains for a couple years now. I was actually vegan on it until about four months ago, when I finally admitted that veganism might not be working for me, had some tests done, came up quite deficient in iron, and finally made the decision to start eating animals again. I’ve been feeling much better, and my depression is finally gone. I started a cutting phase, which I never had much success with as a vegan. My strength is skyrocketing on 3x/week upper/lower myo-reps. I’m doing maintenance +25% on workout days, and about 50% maintenance on rest. Basically PSMF with EOD refeeds. I based that on one of your old recommendations. I know you do stuff differently now, but it is working amazingly well, and the low calorie days are easy with Leangains, far easier than when I attempted them pre-Leangains as an omnivore or vegan. Obviously, a lot of this progress is probably newbie carnivore gains of some sort. It would be a lot harder to adhere to the diet without IF, though.

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 15:43

        Considering all we know about biochemistry, nutrients and human behavior, dietary epidemiology is more or less worthless. Not all of it, but much of it.

        Example: Back in October there was another one of those “eat breakfast for weight control & health”-type of studies (Australian) where the authors concluded that eating breakfast must have some independent (protective) effect of cardiovascular health.

        This was a 20-year old longitudinal study. No food logs, not anything of real relevance tracked, but it was very clear that the breakfast-skippers ate more takeout foods, less than half as much veggies, more bread and less lean meat than breakfast-eaters. They also drank, smoked, and were very sedentary compared to b-eaters.

        Despite this, the authors were too fucking stupid to critically reflect on these issues (i.e. the unhealthy lifestyles of b-skippers that promoted weight gain and bad health) and thought the mere act of eating in the morning had some unique and health promoting effect, and that breakfast-skipping might “slow down metabolism” & promote weight gain in the long term.

        This DESPITE there being RCT-studies clearly showing that no such effect exists. I mean the same conclusions can be drawn from dietary epi in regards to

        red meat = leads to weight gain and poor health

        vegan diet = healthy

        saturated fat = unhealthy

        high carb diet = healthy


        I talked about this here:

        “researchers may look at the dietary pattern of thousands individuals and find that those who eat more frequently tend to weigh less than those who eat less frequently. It’s important to point out that these studies are uncontrolled in terms of calorie intake and are done on Average Joes (i.e. normal people who do not count calories and just eat spontaneously like most people).

        There’s a saying that goes “correlation does not imply causation” and this warrants further explanation since it explains many other dietary myths and fallacies. Just because there’s a connection between low meal frequencies and higher body weights, doesn’t mean that low meal frequencies cause weight gain. Those studies likely show that people who tend to eat less frequently have:

        * Dysregulated eating patterns; the personality type that skips breakfast in favor of a donut in the car on the way to work, undereat during the day, and overeat in the evening. They tend to be less concerned with health and diet than those who eat more frequently.”


        “The connection between lower meal frequency and higher body weight in the general population, and vice versa, is connected to behavioral patterns – not metabolism.”

        But these studies are still being carried out.

      • Richard Nikoley on December 17, 2010 at 15:49

        My question to the breakfast zealots: you mean I should eat when I’m not hungry?

        Because, I almost never am, before 11 or so.

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 16:04

        That’s what they’re suggesting. Because it makes Average Joe’s less likely to eat donuts at 10 AM.

        They’re just too fucking dumb to realize that it’s related to behavior, not metabolism. Scientists and the mass media both.

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 16:06

        I apologize for my foul language….but this really ticks me off.

        (I studied epidemiology at the uni).

      • Richard Nikoley on December 17, 2010 at 16:12


        This is an f-bomb blog, in case you never noticed. Let ’em fly.

      • austin on March 11, 2011 at 13:24

        hey martin can you give me a macro ratio for off days and training days cuz all i can find is low carb on off and stuff but i need spisifc ratio or a base one like 20 60 20 im not sure

  30. Victor K. on December 15, 2010 at 10:40

    What I love about you Richard, is your desire to improve, get better, get stronger and expand your horizons. Yes, LeanGains is not Paleo. Big deal. Paleo was never a religion for you, merely a raft to cross a river.

    I am 80% Paleo-compliant. Never did give up moderate white rice. So what? I still achieved my goals. My before and after photos testify to that.


    • Sue on December 15, 2010 at 20:24

      You look great Victor.

      • Victor K. on December 15, 2010 at 22:37

        Thanks Sue ;)

  31. Henry Svendblad on December 15, 2010 at 11:12

    Richard & Martin – I’ve been following your LG series with great interest. I’ve sent Martin a request to get onto his client list but I am sure he is incredibly backed up… My daily fasts during the week are usually only 12-14 hours due to lifestyle factors I can’t easily change. Do you think this will greatly impact my results? I started on the modified/simplified workouts after your first post and have seen some pretty impressive strength gains. I am also sleeping better, weight is about the same, but I feel ‘bigger’. I was able to decipher some of the Dietary Plan guidelines from Martin’s site. Your post has filled in some of the blanks but not all of them. In addition to cycling carbs/fat I also believe you are cycling calories. Does 50%+ and 25%- seem like the right target? Also is there anything about the macro targets you can share with us that you have not?

    Finally, pardon the shameless plug, but I loved the sauce idea so much it inspired me to create a new recipe for my post-workout LG meal last night. Check it out: http://nuttykitchen.com/2010/12/15/pork-loin-filets-in-free-the-animal-reduction/

    -Henry @ NuttyKitchen

    • Richard Nikoley on December 15, 2010 at 11:59


      Wow, you like to go thick on the sauce. Sometimes it does come out a bit purple depending on the wine and stock combination.

      Anyway, as to the caloric issue, I don’t really know where I’m at relative to maintenance. But maybe Martin has some guidelines.

  32. Ned Kock on December 15, 2010 at 16:22

    It seems that the “secret” to losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is combining strength training with a mild caloric deficit:


    IF seems to help that happen for several people. For others, calorie counting and restriction is the key. Still for others, eating to the point of being slightly hungry seems to work.

    Whether being very lean is optimal for everybody is another matter. Certainly being obese is almost universally bad. Being very lean may be very healthy for some, and not for others. The evidence seems to suggest that it is not optimal for everybody:


  33. matt L on December 15, 2010 at 17:30

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for these posts. They have been a great resource to me – have been trying to implement the Leangains approach after reading Martin’s site for months and seeing your results. Anyways, quick question – do you have any specific methods that were effective at counting calories/nutrient breakdown? I order a lot of meat from a local farm and they (obviously) don’t have labeled nutritional information. I’ve had a tough time finding anything online about grass-fed meat calories, especially for the less common cuts. In addition, I usually just eat an arbitrary amount of the meat, so unsure what my portion size is like. If you have any tips in this area, would love to hear them. Thanks

    • Richard Nikoley on December 15, 2010 at 17:34


      no need to worry about distinctions between grassfed meat calories. Just go with the cuts. If anything, grassfed is leaner for all cuts so you’ll undershoot your fat by a bit by using standard USDA data.

      • matt L on December 15, 2010 at 17:46

        Thanks Richard – i’m looking forward to the next chapter of the FTA/Leangains Tag-team

    • Richard Nikoley on December 15, 2010 at 17:46

      and also, in terms of ground beef, 95/5, 85/15 and 80/20 are all just that, regardless of source (in terms of macro-nutrient comp).

    • Ned Kock on December 15, 2010 at 18:11

      One thing to consider is buying an inexpensive (about $10) digital scale that gives you the weights in g and lbs. At meal time you can do this. Weigh the plate without food, then with the first food item, then the second and so on.

      By subtracting the weights, you will now exactly how much of each food item you’ll have on your plate. The nutrient composition of each food item is available from places like: nutritiondata.com.

      It sounds complicated but it actually is very easy. Foods should be weighed after preparation, on the plate, not before.

  34. andrew on December 15, 2010 at 21:51

    To me it looks like Martin eats a high protein and high sugar diet. How much sugar does he eat? It looks like he’s a pretty great cheese cake eater.

    • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 15:47

      LMAO I don’t eat cheesecake every day.

      I stick to a whole-foods high-protein diet most of the days – lots of meat, veggies, berries, cottage cheese, potatoes, etc.

  35. Sankaran on December 16, 2010 at 03:23

    All the meals look good and I am surely going to try them. But there was one main thing that you left out of the article, either because you didn’t type it out or because I didn’t read it properly. You said that we need 16 hour fasts and then eat the meals.

    1) Did you then train on a fast or did you have a pre workout meal?

    2)Did you consume protein shakes after the workout or was it straight to eating the big meal?

    3) How was your eating and training schedule like? Did you include the 16 hour fast into every day of your time spent or was it intermittent 16 hour fasts which means days when you would eat normally i.e 3 meals?

    • Richard Nikoley on December 16, 2010 at 07:24


      I’ll cover more about fasting in the next post but, I do virtually all of my workouts fasted, right near the end of the fasting window. I had already been doing fasted workouts for a long time (as much as 24-30 hours fasted) so that part was a breeze for me.

      I feel sluggish if I’m not hungry at the gym.

      I used shakes at first, then less and less and now almost none. Don’t think I’ve had a single one in a month.

      The fast is every day, 7 days per week. Doesn’t matter how many meals you have in the eating window. Usually, on rest days it’s two. On workout days I might have something in-between, like a can of tuna.

      • Sankaran on December 17, 2010 at 05:29

        One more question. You said that Martin gave you 11 “peripheral/assistance” exercises together with the 4 core ones, mainly DeadLifts, Squats, BenchPress and Weighted Chins. Any chance of knowing what they are?

      • Richard Nikoley on December 17, 2010 at 07:47

        I don’t think they much matter. Standing overhead press is one I’ve talked about before, as well as upright cable rows. It’s just a matter of finding the right assistance moved for bicepts, tricepts, back, legs that work for you towards improving the principal moves.

  36. Alex B on December 16, 2010 at 06:35

    Martin/Richard – question about fat intake on the diet: Are there any specific guidelines for how much you should be taking in on both workout and rest days?

    From reading the posts so far and a few on LG I can only see a recommendation for low intake on workout days and moderate/high on rest days. Are there g per kg bodyweight limits one should stick within for fat, as there is with protein intake? Thanks.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 16, 2010 at 07:26

      Alex B:

      Actually, I’m not sure where I’m at in terms of total cal intake as Martin set that up for me. Pretty sure I’m deficit both on workout days and rest days, however.

      • Alex B on December 17, 2010 at 16:53

        Richard – looking at your meal samples kind of leads me back to my question, i.e you seem
        to be eating fattier cuts of meat; beef, lamb etc.. (as I tend to do). So how do you keep fat low on workout days??

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 16:56

        Richard goes a bit higher on fat on workout days (i.e. higher fat than standard setup on training days).

      • Alex B on December 17, 2010 at 17:00

        Any figure for how this might translate in terms of % of total calories?

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 17:10

        There’s a reason I’m not specific about individual setups because if I start talking percentages, people will take that as truth when it varies depending on the individual. (E.g. Richard who’s doing it differently than most other clients.)

      • Alex B on December 17, 2010 at 17:15

        No worries totally understand, just trying to get a rough idea of what ‘low’ fat means in reality – mainly because the kind of protein I like to eat tends to come accompanied by a fair bit of fat and wondered if this was an issue.

      • Richard Nikoley on December 17, 2010 at 17:36

        Many of those aren’t workout day meals (a few are), except for the couple I posted pics of. The low fat requirement makes for a bit more bland meals in many cases and not typically worthy of the food porn quality I like.

      • Alex B on December 17, 2010 at 17:40

        Cool, makes sense now. Thanks. With you on the quality tuna btw man – get some decent stuff and there’s nothing bland about it!

  37. Todd on December 16, 2010 at 11:14


    I’m loving this series. I’m curious as to how you’ve adjusted your alcohol intake (wine, scotch, etc…) since starting LG. You’ve certainly let it be known in the past that you appreciate a good scotch or glass of wine. Thx.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 16, 2010 at 11:48

      I rarely do anything but sip on a red wine. Having lived in France I’m really snobbish & particular. When it’s good, watch out. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

      As for scotch, another story. It probably accounts for my rather slow Leangains. But I’ll get there. I’m always comforted by the fact that I never reverse course other than the odd few pounds of gain now and then from water retention or whatever.

      • Samson on December 17, 2010 at 09:22


        Do you typically enjoy alcohol outside of the feeding period?

        During the work week, I can maintain 16 hour fast easily, but the weekend partying always screws up my schedule. I’m not sure whether to start 16 hour fast from the last alcoholic beverage and/or snack I had the night before.

      • Richard Nikoley on December 17, 2010 at 09:24

        I try to keep my alcohol in the window for the most part. Weekends, not always. But it will usually be pretty close, like an hour or so, except in rare instances.

      • Orinn Checkley on December 20, 2010 at 06:21

        Hi Richard, is there any chance you can post the macro breakdown for you posted meals so we cann have an idea of the nutritional content we are eating so as not to make any mistakes. Many thanks in advance. Orinn

  38. Wojciech Majda on December 17, 2010 at 13:15

    “Accounting for TEF, which is substantial for protein (20-30%) protein comes in at around 3-3.2 g per gram depending on the amino acid composition of the protein source. For fat and carbs, TEF is negligible; 2-7% depending on the sources and where is ends up (i.e. muscle glycogen, liver glycogen for carbs, and oxidation or storage of fatty acids)”

    Can someone give references to the “TEF stuff”. I mean how it is measured, experiments on animals and things like that. I would be very grateful, because I’m just writing a post on feed conversion rate in domestic animals.

  39. Alex B on December 17, 2010 at 16:40

    Martin, a quick training question: you’ve mentioned before about doing close-grip chins as well as regular chins. Would you recommend doing these two in the same workout or keeping them
    separate? Thanks.

    • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 16:58

      Depends. In Richard’s case, he’s doing them once a week. For the beginner, or for someone on another routine (gaining), a higher frequency might be used.

      • Alex B on December 17, 2010 at 17:05

        On the same day as the regular chins?

      • Martin Berkhan on December 17, 2010 at 17:06

        Same day as weighted chins, yes. Or regular chins if you’re not strong enough.

      • Alex B on December 17, 2010 at 17:11

        Sorry yes I meant weighted chins by ‘regular’. Cheers for the advice Martin, really appreciate you taking the time.

  40. Woodwose on December 19, 2010 at 00:21

    I have tried the carb-refeed thing lately on at least one training day per week, otherwise i go with less than 50g carbs day. I feel eating a good helping of tubers and berries at least once a week improves digestion greatly and also improves energy levels. The thing is I dont get the same effect when i get my carbs from post workout drinks where they are in a more easily difestible form of maltodextrin. If i drink down the carbs i will usually feel extemely sluggish afterwards.

  41. Andrew on December 19, 2010 at 11:20

    The first rss feed I check every morning is leangains, the second in freetheanimal, so when I saw Martin on here I was very excited. I like Richard because like myself he cuts through the crap and mumbo jumbo.

    I was eating paleo and lost 17kg then it plateaued. I have been using leangains approach and have lost another 13kg and seen very nice strength gains. (Very happy>> did 140kg deadlifts yesterday)

    I wanted to ask Martin, what is your take on so called inflammatory/problematic foods e.g Wheat. The reason I ask is although leangains is working for me and I’m enjoying it, will it help with health and longevity? (keeping away disease etc) Wheat has come up in alot of studies, telling us its really bad? It doesn’t seem to bother me or is it doing damage I’m not aware of?

    I think the biggest problem in nutrition/health today is that people become a bit too “religious” and cult like about their beliefs, e.g some very strict paleo bloggers, although I broadly agree with the principles, I think being cult like doesn’t do much good in moving and adapting to what works and what is snake oil saying that I really enjoying Richards series on potatoes. (It set me free man, I love potatoes!!)

    Other observations:
    My biggest challenge was and still is getting in all the protein and keeping down the fats. The Carbs seems to be an easy variable to control.

    Also what about fruit, is it ok as a carb source? ( I ask because of the fructose content, and the bad rep its been getting lately)

    I was very against counting calories and only when I started counting do you realize and understand how many calories/macronutrients you are eating, just having this awareness I think has helped me alot. I was amazed to find out I was eating a 70% fat diet!

    Just also wanted to thank Martin for making all this information available to us.
    Thanks dude you the bomb.

    Thanks Richard for hosting these interviews.

  42. Body Lab · Lecturi interesante on December 19, 2010 at 11:39

    […] Richard Nikoley vorbeste despre progresele facute de cand a inceput sa lucreze cu Martin Berkhan. Rezultate excelente […]

  43. Richard Nikoley on December 19, 2010 at 11:41

    “I think being cult like doesn’t do much good in moving and adapting to what works and what is snake oil saying that I really enjoying Richards series on potatoes. (It set me free man, I love potatoes!!)”

    You must be mistaken. No way you could have lost an additional 13kg if you’re been indulging on potatoes! :)

    Good place on the deads. 308 lbs. I just went from 305 to 315, working on hitting the 5 rep (I’m at 3, now) in the next few weeks so I can advance to 325.

    BTW, anyone want to see some DL madness? How about 750 x 5, immediately followed by 440 x 31 in about a minute.


    I think it was Chris Highcock at Conditioning Research (a very fine blog) who posted that, so thanks, Chris.

  44. Fasted Workout Benefits | Mark's Daily Apple on December 20, 2010 at 10:28

    […] Berkhan and Richard Nikoley have been doing some great work together charting Richard’s Leangains journey) and you’ll see that plenty of others are feeling the […]

  45. Jim Walker on December 19, 2010 at 20:53

    Pretty awesome insights!
    I stumbled upon this blog while discussing IF with some folks in another blog and like to share my sentiments on the subject. Ok, I have my opinions that work for me, so be kind please. :)

    I don’t get the missing the breakfast part. That seems pretty odd IMHO. Virtually every study on meal times has scientifically proven that breakfast is the one meal that improves concentration, well-being, etc. (compared to those who don’t have breakfast).

    So this is my approach. I find this method far less traumatic than missing breakfast. First, start the day by eating a hardy as close to organically/whole food minded breakfast as you can (couple eggs, turkey bacon or piggy, coffee/tea or whatever your favorite stimulant is (but no sugar or dairy) and a handful of mixed nuts.

    At your stop eating point, I find 11 works great for me, have your getting ready to fast meal. In my case I find a cup of black beans and some nuts, and/or whatever you like really like works (as long as it’s not refined). Change up your before fast meal every day, with a focus on protein, for quality intake of vitamins and nutrients to make your body good.

    Then drink as much as you want, water, tea, coffee (within reason) until bed. This will give you a nice 20ish hour fast without a great deal of self abuse or feeling of want. Feeling hungry? Just chug down some water and find something to occupy yourself tends to do the trick.

    Oh, and don’t sweat a cheat day once a week. You wanna go out with friends or do a nice meal once a week just do it– life should be fun too.

    About workouts. Well, I try to do my workouts during the time most people have lunch, so because I’ve already loaded up prior to noon, I don’t put any thought into protein meals, snacks, or the like. But then I’m not training for a weight lifter competition…

    I’m sure there are lot of approaches out there. This method is easy for me to explain to people, and I don’t get the “your talking like a crazy vegan” looks when I discuss the subject in public.


  46. Monday Musings: Thoughts on Fasted Training | on December 21, 2010 at 02:26

    […] Berkhan and Richard Nikoley have been doing some great work together charting Richard’s Leangains journey) and you’ll see that plenty of others are feeling the […]

  47. lalo on December 21, 2010 at 08:24

    so im trying this… yesterday i did: my usual 23 hrs daily fast + huge chest workout + then i ate a a few cuts of “lean” meat+ big potato ( with a bit of butter). Didnt crash, my energy levels where great, i felt a bit hungrier after my meal ( unusual) Today how do i feel? PROS: My recovery from training? Substantially better, no pain at all. CONS: 4 hrs till “meal time” (today) and im Fking hungry like if there is no tomorrow!! thats a first to me, Im never EVER hungry eating lacto paleo @ optimal high fat diet, and im super lean, so yhea, im not filling this. at all. been hungry sucks. ( i -might- give it another try upping the protein content, ( lol insulin) maybe i low balled the meat)

  48. […] Intervjuer med Martin Berkhan: (fra Intervjuer med Martin Berkhan, mm. -> Trening & Kosthold; Verdt å lese, Utgave 27) freetheanimal har 3 gode intervjuer med periodisk faste ‘kongen’ Martin Berkhan. Anbefales! Del 1, del 2, del 3. […]

  49. […] I set to work on the sauce as this rests in a warm oven. I described the process here. In this case, I added about a half cup red wine to the pan (without draining), deglazed, reduced […]

  50. James on January 16, 2011 at 06:14

    All I can say is I have been following the 16/8 Science for about 3 weeks and OMG, no words can describe what I am feeling! I am shedding fat like someone is taking a hot knife to a stick of butter. The first week was a little rough because I had the hand to mouth syndrome but afterwards my body jumped on board and its been heaven ever since. Thank you both so EFING (I know this is a F-Bomb Blog) much! Keep inspiring us all and waking the zombies out of their slumber.

    Peaceful Journey!

  51. Rod on January 16, 2011 at 07:15

    Martin, I wonder what your nutrional recommendations are for an extended rehab program due to injury. A challenge for rehab is to maximize the bodies ability to heal,not lose a lot of muscle mass or gain weight.Comments on training and eating for inactivity is certainly relevant for the workout crowd.

  52. […] March 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · Food Porn TweetDinner last night. A long time staple of any French Brasserie: Steak Frites. While you can use a culotte (tri-tip), the entrecôte (ribeye) is the traditional cut to use, likely because of its delicious fattiness, such that if you cook it to at least medium rare, you basically have a sauce to go with your frites. In this case, I made my standard simple red-wine reduction, method detailed here. […]

  53. […] once browned it moved to the oven, pan and all at 350 for about 35 min. The red wine sauce was from FTA. Eggplant was cut into 1/4″ chips, drizzled with EVOO, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and […]

  54. Anonymous on May 12, 2011 at 11:22

    […] […]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.