I've been following the Leangains blog for a while now.
The author, Martin Berkhan is essentially a bodybuilder and personal trainer who has developed a system based around timing. Intermittent fasting is a key part of the concept.
He says this allows him and his clients to gain muscle while remaining lean. Or put the other way, and depending on where you started, become lean whilst preserving or gaining muscle. Apparently the meal timing encourages the 'partitioning' of nutrients.
I am the first to say that you should never take advice from someone on the basis of how they look or perform. It could be 90% genetics, 10% training; but Martin does appear to have success with his clients too. And more to the point, he clearly understands the science. He has not solely based the system on what works for him (unlike articles written in Flex magazine by people with muscles growing on the end of their enlarged chins.)
Here a good summary of Martin's system, if you want the detail - The Leangains Guide.
A very simple summary would be this:
- You have an 8-hour eating window, on the post-workout period. For example - eat between 12pm and 8pm.
- You hit the gym some time around the early part of that window, and make the post-workout meal the largest.
- Regular, higher-carb 'refeeds' help keep leptin levels up so that hunger does not sabotage correct your efforts and you remain healthy.
I have never taken BCAAs before, because I never thought it was worth it and was not willing to spend the money when I could just eat real food. But for the purposes of this experiment I will give it a try. It will not require a big change for me - but it will require enough change that I might expect to see a difference if it works.
- 1 or 2, 30-minute intense workouts per week, at 7am.
- A long, easy run at the weekends.
- On 2 or 3 days, a fast: no food til dinner
- On workout days, 3 meals, the first an hour afterwards
- On non-gym, non-fast days, just 2 meals, starting with lunch.
- On gym days, I will take BCAA before intense workouts, and through the morning afterwards.
- I will NEVER eat before 12, even on gym days.
- On gym days I will eat higher carb, as a 'refeed' to maintain leptin levels.
I will tag the workout days with 'Leangains', so you can see the training and eating from workout days - here.
Call Yourself a Caveman?
I know, I know - our ancestors didn't exactly quaff vile-tasting BCAA before and after hunting, fighting or tree-climbing. But remember this is an experiment, not a lifestyle choice. In any case, I'd like to emphasise that my workouts will continue to be random. Workout days could be weights, sprinting, tabata rowing, swimming sprints or anything else short and with the potentially to build muscle.
Update 15.08.10 - by coincidence, Richard at Free the Animal has just written a post, "Ginormous Meals for Fat Loss, Leanness and Conditioning." I think it gives a great evolutionary rationale for this approach to meal timing and size.
I have been doing weights for years, and always struggled to make any strength gains beyond the plateau I reached after 18 months because I was trying also to remain lean, and included running in my program. The only time I had any real strength and size was when I focused on bodybuilding in the late 90s. But I was never really lean and my bulking and cutting cycles seemed largely fruitless.
So my objective here is to see whether I can actually make some strength (and size) gains while continuing to run and remain lean.
My starting point is 11 stone 6.5 and 11% fat. Here's a photo.
Most of Martin's clients appear not to start lean, so their transformations are profound. I am already lean, with some muscle, so if I am honest I would be surprised to see any profound visible change. The scales will perhaps be a better guide.
Leangains Experiment 12-Week Update