Martin Berkhan: The Birth of Leangains
This is the info from the leaked Leangains documents PDF. This particular piece is where Martin describes his testing phase with Leangains. The information dates back to 2006, before he published his website. He goes into detail about his training routine, strength gains and fat loss on his cut/bulk/recomp, as well as what some of his clents have done. Thereís some interesting and useful information below:
June and July 2006 Cut
185 pounds to 177-179 pounds
My training cycle went like this;
Benchpress, working up to 1 RM or within 5 lbs (if i couldnt get ahold of a spotter i would not attempt my old 1RM or try to surpass it)
1 set 5 RM
1 set bodyweight benchpress (about 14 reps in June, 17 reps in the end of July)
Triceps work, one or two sets.
Squat, worked up to 1 RM.
Chins, bodyweight+100 lbs for 6-8 reps (6 in June, 8 end of July)
Bodyweight chins x max
Deadlift, worked up to 1 RM.
Bodyweight chins, close grip, submaximal (i.e i would stay away from failure and stop when my chinning speed decreased).
Thats what i did training wise. Very low volume, high intensity.
Diet wise i overfed on all my weight training days. Starting after my workout i would usually eat about a carton of any cereal i wanted (about 500 gram) and 1.5 litres of low fat milk. Throughout the rest of the day i would eat low fat and high carbs, moderate protein. Sometimes i ended up eating some high carb/high fat junk since i was tired of the old stuff (mostly bread, cereal, low fat icecream etc). Calorie wise i ended up at around 4500-5500 cals, some days as high as 6000+.
"Off" days id stay within 1200-1400 cals, maximum of 100 carbs and the rest lean protein. Think veggies and lean meat, some cottage cheese thrown in for variety. All in all about 2 hours of walking as cardio, some days more than that.
Breaking it all down it would look something like this
Day 1 4500-5500 cals
Day 2 1200-1400
Day 3 4500-5500
Day 4 1200-1400
Day 5 1200-1400
Day 6 1200-1400
Day 7 4500-5500
Day 8 1200-1400
Overall i found this diet extremely easy to follow. I was never hungry on the off days (cept for maybe Day 6) and my mood was good all way throughout the diet.
August to November 2006 Bulk
182-184 pounds to 200 pounds
Today ends my 12 week Intermittent Fasting run of trying to put on some quality weight.
I started out in the middle of August, after taking 2 weeks on maintenance.
2 weeks of maintenance had me eating three meals of approximately 1000 kcals (3000 kcals/day).
After doing this, i actually looked better compared to the cut; i went from 177-179 lbs to 182-184 lbs with no fat gain whatsoever (or so i would believe). I guess the increased weight is from normalized glycogen and such, i looked fuller compared to the end of cut pictures.
Then from mid August to now, i have been eating 3 meals for a total of 4500 kcals approximately. The meals where eaten within a 6-8 hour time span and centered mainly after my workout. Im not sure if this would qualify as IF; however it made for a good and interesting headline. My fasting period was 16-18 hours though. I would break the fast with a light meal of 4-500 kcals, go workout and then eat approximately 4000 kcals before i went to sleep. Macros where high carb/moderate protein and moderate/low fat.
This is how the strength increases went:
End of cut / end of bulk
Squat 1x 370, 6 x 275 / 5 x 375 (did not try 1RM)
Deadlift 1x 505 / 1x 555lbs
Benchpress 177.5 (BW) x 15 / 235 lbs x 6, 195 (BW) x 15
Lat pulldown 225 x 10 / 300 lbs x 4
Q: 3 Meals every day, consisting of 4500 kcal acummulated?
On off days i would split them evenly.
Workout days: 500 pre-workout
followed by approximately 4000 kcals post-workout.
Usually i would split those 4000 into two meals.
Q: What was your training like?
Very similar, except the addition of some calf, ab and arm work. Usually 1 set to failure once every 8th day. Drop sets where used if my top set was heavier than a 6RM.
Q: Any cardio work?
During the maintenance phase id do one hour of walking most days. During the bulk phase, no cardio whatsoever.
Drawbacks with IF, from my point of view, are the intense night sweatings from consuming so many calories before bed. It might not seem like a big issue but it impaired my sleep some nights. Interestingly, the night sweatings became less of a problem the longer i followed the diet. The bloating can also be a problem in the beginning, but i gradually learned what foods that made me bloat the day after and removed those items. While i didnt really mind the bloat i found that it impaired my performance in some movements if that makes any sense.
Q: What would the big meal consist of?
For example; one whole box of cereal, about 500 grams, (i have a thing for Kellogs Special K) and 1.5 litres of low fat milk. This would put me somewhere around 2300 kcals. Before this meal id have veggies and lean meat, pasta, rice or lentils on the side. All in all about 3000 kcals, but this would vary depending on what i felt like eating. Some days i went for low fat ice cream and about 1 lbs or potatoes together with some lean meat or similar concotions. The one constant macro in each meal would be high carbs and moderate protein. I would keep fat intake variable but most of the time low.
Q: Your workout routine is pretty weird. Is it from anywhere?
Its my own design, partly HIT-inspired.
I use an 8 day-cycle because this is the minimum rest required if i want to progress in the squat and deadlift simultaneously. I focus on progress in the big three and chins (or some pulldown alternative if chinning is not possible, as it hasnt been lately) to gauge my progress and do very little accessory work (ie arms, calves etc). Thats basically my training philosophy summed up.
I'm assuming this took roughly 5 months since you mentioned starting in August and Ibased the calculations on a mid december BF measurement
182@6% = 10.9 lbs fat, 171 lbs lean
200@9% = 19 lbs fat, 182 lbs lean
11 lbs lean gain, 8 lbs fat gain
a little better than 1:1
So in 5 months you gained a little more than 2 lbs of muscle and a little less than 2 lbs of fat/month. Or about .5 lb/week of each.
which is about what I'd expect for any other bulk done non-retardedly.
in terms of adjusting caloric intake, the math shows that you gained about .4 lbs fat/week.
that's 1400 calories worth of fat
adjusting cals down by about 500 cal/day on the overfeed days should just balance that out
be curious to see what happens
9 weeks after the IF-bulk and im still holding 200 lbs, give or take.
Strength has stalled since November and im still doing 390 x 4 squat, 555 x 1 dead and 235 x 6 bench. Which is a bit depressing.
Been eating on maintenance so I guess there´s not much in terms of progress to be had without overeating. Couple years ago I had no problem gaining progressively while eating on maintenance.
Plan is to start cutting in a week, lose a few lbs, do 2 weeks on maintenance and then head for another round of IF for mass.
This is a summary of what I have people doing for cutting IF style, with two important variables to note;
1) Training- i always stick to low volume/high intensity, others are using their default training protocol. I emphasise progress in some key lifts (compound movements mainly) as a means of tracking results (i.e if you are increasing your lifts, it should be a rough indicator of LBM gains).
2) Refeeds- this is highly individual. I ate around 4500 kcal on refeed days, which seems to be a bit high for some. 3700-3900 kcal is a more appropiate number and people are seeing faster fat loss. Low fat is always emphasised. Note that most people are doing this for fat loss and not recomping per se, which was my goal. You might be able to play around with 4500 kcal+ on refeed days if you got some patience. Fat loss might be slower but you get to have some fun and, perhaps, better LBM gains in the long run.
On cutting days I recommend a minimum of one hour of brisk walking and 1200-1400 kcals of mostly lean protein and fibrous vegetables, split into 3-4 meals with the first meal getting eaten a minimum of 16 hours after the last one.
Note that im not to fond of formulas for the refeeds. The whole idea with IF is to not get caught up in numbers like x g CHO*lbm, but to be able to get a break from neurotic macrocounting. I do however set a caloric maximum for refeeds depending on results and workout progress, but since the rules are low fat/high carb with a maximum of say 4000 kcal, people end up doing pretty clean refeeds anyway.
I have a feeling that something this extreme might work very poorly for someone fatter b/c of underlying insulin resistance issues
for the same reason that fatter folks do refeeds less frequently/intensively.
at the very least, I'd scale the calories way back (at least initially) on the high calorie days and only increase if the results were positive
Im with you on this one. I would not have someone doing this at 15%+.
Better option would be straight IF with a more modest deficit, say -800 kcals/day, until you get to the lean range. Sure, whatever other means to reach the goal would do just as good, but the appetite suppression resulting from IF makes it an attractive option. The first meal to break the fast could also be substantial, since the meal frequency is low, which makes the feeling of deprivation appear less evident when you dont have any scheduled refeeds planned.
The major benefits of IF as I see it:
Potent appetite suppression up until the first meal. This is also the reason not to space meals evenly; once you start eating, you find yourself hungry for more.
Increased attention and focus 12-16 hours after the last meal. This probably ties into catecholamines being released after some time in the fasting state. I usually study in the morning and relax when I get to the eating. Eating activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which may partly explain the lessened desire to engage in any cognitive or mentally demanding tasks after eating (well, for me at least).
An easy and simple approach to calorie deficit, allowing substantial meals (800 kcals+) to make up for the low meal frequency.
No need to get neurotic about meal timing, eating every 2-3 hours etc.
The partitioning effect. Strategically placing refeeds, or a large part of the total daily intake after WO (75% of kcal PWO), seems to have a significant impact on LBM gains. I can now not only speak for myself, but other people as well.
So what im doing now, in the context of an IF-cutting protocol, is to have my test subjects eat 3 potatoes pre-wo; basically 50g starchbased carbs (since workout volume is higher, think 3x8 for 4-5 movements). None has had any problem with energy and made consistent strength gains. This is also true for workout days that follows a hypocaloric day (i.e the day before was 1200-1400 kcals and 60-90 min cardio).
Q: What types of foods were you eating, and how long was the period of time, generally, between end of workout & going to bed?
PWO I always had the same meal: one box of cereal (500g of either Special K, cornflakes or something else with a low fat content) and 1.5 litres of skim milk. Easy to eat and packs about 2300-2350 kcal, 400g carbs and 100-120g protein.
Second meal right before bed, and usually 2-3 hours after the former, was a variable most days (i.e id try something different most times) but for example:
* 1kg bag of potatoes, whole grilled chicken (removed the skin) and ketchup.
* 250g pasta or rice, 3-400g of whatever lean meat and some low fat sauce to spice it up.
* 1kg of low fat cottage cheese, raisins and some bread.
Basically, I lowered the carb content a bit while keeping protein intake at around 100g. Fat intake remained low or very low.
Note however that I did gain some fat and I found the second PW meal a bit excessive. Next time around (end of Feb) im cutting the caloric surplus from 1500 kcals to 750 kcals (4500 kcal vs 3700-3800 kcals), mainly by reducing kcal intake of the last meal. Night sweats also became a problem given the high kcal intake, and I wish to avoid that as well.
I might alter the protocol depending on priorities (LBM gain or fat loss)
To give you an example, this is regarding one of my clients:
Starting weight, Nov 20: 185 lbs
Weight, Dec 27: 175 lbs
Jan 9: 174 lbs (including several days of breaking from dieting setlines due to holidays)
IF setup for recomp:
A= 1200-1400 kcals, lean protein and veggies, 100 carbs max, 60-90 min cardio (brisk walking)
B= 1400-1600 kcals, same as above except for 50g of carbs added PWO (starch, in this case 3 potatoes), 60 min cardio
C= 3700-3900 kcals, refeed starts after WO, I urge to max the caloric roof but to keep it low fat. This guy is a fan of pasta and cereal with skim milk so he´s been sticking to that on refeeds. Protein intake is set to 250g, but this is mostly due to hunger issues; I actually told him to start with veggies+protein PW as to fill him up so that he doesnt go aboard on the kcals.
MON- Chest, B
TUE- Legs, C
THUR- Shoulders+back, B
FRI- Arms, C
Significant strength gains has been made on this protocol
When I was recomping in summer using the (almost) same protocol, Id walk an hour or so in the morning and get some more walking during the day, putting me somewhere at 2 hours+ of low intensity cardio/day. On weight days, id have a walk in the morning, work out and have my refeed.
Part of why im not using heavy/light/medium cycling is due to personality factors. I have a very hard time holding back, and I just end up doing more volume with the same intensity that I normally use. So thats mainly my basis for low workout frequency and low volume; im more likely to overtrain on other routines.
One of my theories around maintaining low bodyfat year around, and this was my priority for many years, is that your diet should be more carb based than fat based when you get under a certain bf%.
This ties into the fact that carbs will benefit you more than fat, assuming the positive correlation with low body fat and insulin sensitivity.
Add to that the fact that carbs will somewhat resolve leptin issues, which might be compromised in the lean state depending on heritability.
Then id also add the argument that carbs gives you a better bang for the buck with regards to satiety. The last statement may be questionable and subject to intraindividual variation, but im making generalizations here. Im also assuming that the primary carb sources arent white rice and jellybeans.
So im basically saying what Lyle is, with regards to macros, except id like to add bf% as a variable when considering diet in general. Low bodyfat= more carbs. This is partly based on my own experience, partly on the arguments just made.
for sure there is the relationship with higher bodyfat = more insulin resistant
however, there is still a genetic component, at the same level of fatness, insulin sensitivity can vary 10 fold. so it's still conceivable to be relatively insulin resistant when you're lean
as usual, I'd titrate it based on response. if a high carb/low fat meal makes someone feel shitty shortly afterwards, even if they are lean, they may not have stunning insulin sensitivity
of course, it can also be argued that the reason they feel bad (low energy/blod glucose) is because their stunning insulin sensitivity is causing them to clear glucose too quickly
Q: How would you structure IF so overeating can occur on the the weekend?
In the context of a recomp protocol, overeating should always occur after workouts. Which means that you could do something like this:
a) Saturday- upper body, your usual routine.
b) Sunday- lower body, your usual routine.
c) Wednesday- full body, very low volume, high intensity.
1. Start the refeed after workouts, before the wokout have around 500 kcals with an equal mix of protein and carbs, low fat; 50-60 pro/carbs, rest fat is a good guideline. Include some starch for carbs (potatoes for example).
2. a+b, I recommend a upper/lower split, and whatever movements you are comfortable with. Don´t go retarded with volume and stick to compound movements.
3. Wednesday workout should be full body, low volume, high intensity. Use the same pre-workout meal as described above, and eat a large meal after your workout. 70-80g. carbs is plenty and you should keep the kcal deficit. This should not be viewed as a refeed day, just a day to sustain your workout.
As always, refeeds should on sat/sun should be low fat, high carb and mod protein. If fat loss is your main priority, I suggest going no higher than 1000 kcal over maintenance on saturday and 700 kcal on sunday. The lesser kcal load on sunday is needed in order to prevent spillover.
Q: With your bench being lower, just out of curiosity, how big are your arms?
16 1/8 inches. They may appear bigger visually, due to pronounced bicep peaks combined with slightly underdeveloped triceps. In my avatar, I think they´re barely 15 inches@180 lbs.
My thoughts on carb-depletion in relation to IF:
Basically, the cons outweight the pros.
My main priority is always to preserve/increase LBM; this is, in my experience, best achieved by working in the 5-8 rep range on the compound movements (3 sets) with some assistance movements thrown in (2 sets), and eating 75-85% of the daily kcal intake within 5-6 hours following the workout.
I use strength in the 5-8 rep range as rough indicator of LBM gain. Weekly increases on key movements is measured against bodyweight lost; is the client gaining strength and losing weight= great, or is the client maintaining/losing strength? If the former, I dont change anything, if the latter I make modifications (slightly higher kcal intake on off days, remove cardio from off days etc).
If you throw in depletion work, weight lost may be accelerated while strength in the 5-8 rep range may be compromised - this is my own experience from 2 consecutive 4 week runs of CKD a couple of years ago. First run I used to deplete with 3-4 sets of 20, lost stength, started next run with with less total volume (no traditional depletion, conservative workouts) and maintained strength while getting very lean.
I realise my view of depletion workouts may be biased and faulty, but IMO whatever calories burnt via depletion can always be achieved by eating less or dieting longer. Besides, im quite happy with the results thus far achieved without depletion and wary of throwing something I have limited experience with into the mix. I´d need to try it out for myself before starting anyone on such a routine (IF+depletion). I could see the use of a routine starting out with a couple of traditional sets, and then finishing off with a few sets of 15-20. I will need to experiment further with this.
I am quite curious on how you structure an IF-cycle with depletion.
There are individual differences, of course - but so far, clients report of strength gains even while dieting and doing depletion workouts in between the heavy days.
I have several options here:
1. Full-body 2-3x/weekly, 5x5 split, or an upper/lower split 3x/week, depletion work at the end of the workout. Don't like this option much, since depleting then carbing up afterwards is kind of a waste, but at least you burn more calories.
2. Same as above, but depletion workout the day after heavy work and carbs. The best option IME.
Monday: bench, squat, chins (or rows)
Tuesday: Full body depletion, SS cardio depends
Wednesday: front squat, DL, OHP, power cleans or rows (or chins)
Thursday: rest or full body depletion, SS cardio depends
Friday: bench or incline bench, squat, chins (or rows)
Sunday rest or full body depletion or intervals
I prefer 2, but sometimes up to 3 depletion workouts per week. I don't go overboard on volume either, about 2-3 sets of 15-25 reps per muscle group.
I may also stagger carbs during the week, so e.g. 150g pre-/post-workout+up to 4-5hrs later on day 1, 300g on day 2, 500g on day 3
3. Upper/lower split, heavy upper + depletion lower and vice versa. Also not a preferred alternative since I recommend carbs after heavy work, but if you prioritize Upper body you may only do carbs 2 days/week on the heavy days.
I should add, though - that I use a PSMF/UD2.0 style diet on depletion days and on heavy days up to 1hr pre-workout, not a strict fast. Calories can also be varied to achieve some weekly total deficit, so there is always some individual adjustment for each client depending on starting point, goals and progress.
im a simple man when it comes to weight training and dieting. Im also a simple man when it comes to the structure of the week in terms of workouts, kcal intake, carb intake and refeeds; IMO one benefit IF has, lies in its non-complexity, which often equals high adherance rates.
You provided a fairly complex routine, and while I do not doubt it´s effective, it differs a lot from what I would have anyone do.
For the recomp routine im doing, im using an EOD carb load of approximately 2x bw on WO days (next day carbs are kept at 100g max). Works very well for LBM gains.
For the IF low kcal days (recomp protocol), I use 1200-1500 kcal as an appropriate range; basically 50% maintenance for most guys. I also recommend a minimum of 60-90 mins of low intensity cardio on these days.
Q: Is your program would be okay with weekend refeeds and carbs around workouts.
just time the refeeds on fri-sun (whichever day you´re working out) and do maintenance +25%, set carbs at bw x 2, low fat and the rest protein.
You might wan´t to play it cool with the refeeds if you´re doing them 2 days in a row, since your goal is primarily fat loss (i.e saturday would be +25% maint., sunday maintenance + 0-15%, bw x 1.5 carbs).
I don't really see the need for refeeds per se when you are trying to gain mass. A caloric surplus doesn't depress leptin. If you just want to do my schedule with a couple of depletion workouts, small-moderate carbloading Monday and Wednesday, then a bigger carbload Friday+Saturday - sure, I've experimented with that, and it works well.
Agreed. However, I do think that there are benefits to a large PW kcal intake on WO-days; refeeds would not be the proper term, but I´d like to have a lean individual eating at maintenance on non-WO days and then "refeeding" at maintenance+25% WO-days. On an EOD WO-routine this will generate a caloric surplus of 375 kcal for someone maintaining at 3000 kcal; which I think is plenty enough for LBM gains.
Besides (maybe) having a partitioning advantage, I also think this system has its benefits in terms of adherance and avoiding the post diet rebound, esp if the individual is sub-10% bf.
June 2007 – Birth of leangains.blogspot.com
Q: So what with the cheetah? Is it the most ripped animal on the planet or what?
its the most broish animal on the planet
Q: Have you ever thought of running an IF with lowered carbs and higher fats?
thats what im doing right now on rest days
fat sources being mainly fattier fish and meat, avocado, olives and peanut butter
Q: Can clients eat protein during the fast to avoid the possibility of any LBM losses
I find that I get hungrier once I start eating. if eating does not interfere with hunger, there might be a point to modify guidelines for those being very lean (i.e they might be more susceptible to muscle catabolism)
>12% bf: strict 16 hr fast,
9-11% bf: 90% of calories to be consumed in the 8 hr eating window
and so forth
Q: 1. Do you see any advantage to fasted workouts? 2. Have you gotten any feedback from other people regarding this, or has this simply been an n=1 phenomenon?
1. Benefits would be added flexibility, esp for the folks that work out out in the morning, prolonging the feeding window throughout the day. Other benefits would, *theoretically*, be better CNS output from catecholamines resulting in greater strength in low rep ranges. That one I just pulled out my ass, but I have been thinking about it before. I certainly feel more amped on fasted workouts. Question remains how performance during more standard bodybuilding routines would be affected (i.e higher rep ranges, higher total volume etc).
Nutrient uptake PWO would be better, but just out of the fact that you'd be in a larger energy deficit vs having a pre-wo meal.
2. Yes, some people are doing standard bb splits in the fasted state with no apparent loss in performance. Then again, question remains if they always have been doing this or if they are comparing the fasted workouts to their performance in the fed state. Most of the people I have spoken with have been doing it for such a long time that they can't say for sure.
194-196 lbs @ 5.5%
Q: Have you always trained how you do now?
No, I've tried every routine under the sun.
Low volume approaches i.e HIT and 5x5 routines all worked well. DC was also ok, but I stagnated fast. Attempts at high volume all went to shit, especially in combination with 4x/w+ frequency. I think my failed attempts at higher volume may have something to do with my temperament and inability to hold back; I basically ended up going to failure for 3-4 sets per movement, instead of 1-2 sets, back when I tried higher volume routines. In 2008 I might give them another shot again.
Q: How big of a strength dropoff (if any) have you noticed going from 9% to now?
I've gained a significant amount of strength throughout the period, but realize that the drop from 9%, to now, wasn't a linear cut in any way; there were times of excess calories and weight gain as well. Some noteables:
Bench press: 270 lbs x 4 (vs 235 lbs x 6, dec 2006)
Deadlift: 600 lbs x 3, 640 lbs x 1 (vs 555 lbs x 1, dec 2006)
However, the last month dropping from 197-199 lbs to 194-196, I've noticed pressing movements feeling heavier and less controllabe than what would normally be expected at that rep range. If I've lost strength, I'll notice it when I get back to the lower rep range. Training frequency has been very low lately though, with one upper/lower wo every 5th or 6th day, which might be another part of any potential loss. If there is any, it would be minimal and I'm still stronger/leaner than a year ago.
In 2007 I was a lot more conservative than before with regards to calorie intake on high/low days. If you recall, I was eating 4.5 k for the bulk in aug-nov 06 and 1.2 k + pigout days for the summer cut 06. This time around, calorie discrepancies between high/low days were no more than +30% maintenance for high days and -30% for low days (maintenance calculated at bw in kilo x 30, which I suspect was a bit high in the first place). I've experimented with +-5-30% and there's definitely a sweet spot.
Q: Do you think it's easier for guys to be that lean as opposed to the equivalent for women? And to stay in that condition did you just eat at maintenance level or try to stay in a deficit most of the time.
If we're talking relatives (i.e my 5% would be ~10% for a woman), I think it's noticeably harder for women, yes. For example, I get have no negative physical symptoms from my condition; a woman at 10% would probably lose her period and run into other physical and mental issues as well.
With regards to staying this way, my weekly calorie breakdown is close to maintenance. I don't eat a set diet right now, some days are higher than others due to natural circumstances and so forth (when wrapped up in work, I usually do 2 meals instead of 3, next day I compensate etc). I just jot down my estimated calorie intake for the day and divide by 7, most cases it turns out at 2600-2900 kcal, which is what I maintain on (low activity). It is very non-stressful way to eat, and live, once you reach your goals (and I consider myself satisfied for the moment being). That being said, I end up eating mostly the same stuff everyday anyway.
When I have a specific goal in mind, like when I ran the IF cycles, my calories are more controlled and macros are specific for whatever experiment I'm trying out for that cycle.
Q: Do you eat higher fat/lower carb? Or do you even consider macros?
Rest days are higher fat for the most part. Not anal about macros, but fat would probably be in the 20-30% range, protein 40-50% and whatever's left, carbs.