Get Lean and Gain Muscle with Leangains?

I love dietary experiments and workout challenges, it helps to keep me motivated. My next experiment is the “Leangains Protocol” as espoused by Martin Berkhan.

  • Introduction to Leangains
  • Leangains Dietary and Workout Protocol


I gained 10 lbs over the holidays and it’s not a secret how it happened, it happens every year for me. Higher fat (cheese and cream) combined with increased alcohol consumption leads to fat gains. As best as I can determine, except for less sunlight, colder temperatures, and the increased fat and alcohol consumption…. all other variables were typical, same foods, same exercise amount and intensity.


To remove the 8-10 lbs of body fat gained over the holidays, I’m going to implement dietary and workout suggestions from Markin Berkhan of Leangains. Above is the “Before and After” of Martin, he walks the walk.


First: How I Gain Fat

I didn’t cheat over the holidays (by eating high carb) but I did increase my alcohol consumption and my fat intake. I eat more cheese and drink more wine during the holidays. I also like to add cream to my coffee. It’s a festive time of year… and adding cheese, wine and cream to my menu… makes it  festive for me.

I really enjoy it!  :)

So yes, I know how to gain fat… eat more fat and drink more alcohol. This post from Martin explains the ‘why’ … with science. In short, the body will burn the toxic alcohol first, and store any dietary fat as body fat.

How do I lose body fat?  Simple, do not do those things mentioned above or reduce fat and reduce alcohol. :)



Introduction to Leangains

Martin Berkhan and was a confirming voice for me back in 2009 as I began my health and fitness journey. He has been a champion of the benefits of intermittent fasting… including muscle gains.  I like Martin’s approach, he backs much of what he does with…

  1. Science
  2. Self-Experimentation

I don’t agree with Martin on every issue as it relates to me as a diabetic, for example carb cycling, but for those without diabetes I think his protocols are excellent. You can’t argue with his success nor the success of his clients.


Leangains Protocol

I discuss the dietary and the workout guidelines that I will be following, including my ‘tweaks’.


Leangains Dietary Guidelines

First of all, this is NOT going to be a  major change for me. I’ve been implementing most of the dietary advice promoted by Leangains for 9 years! The major exception is ‘carb cycling’… which I will not do since I’m a diabetic.

The biggest change for me will be adding BCAAs pre-workout (more about that later) and eating my largest meal of the day post workout. BCAAs are Branch Chain Amino Acids whose purpose is to decrease muscle breakdown and improve muscle synthesis. There have been studies that show BCAAs  do not help build muscle, but the main purpose (for me) is to prevent or reduce muscle breakdown while working out fasted.


Leangains in it’s simplest form is 16 hours of fasting with an 8 hour eating window each day. This is what I do pretty much every day.


From “Maintaining Low Body Fat” and “The Leangains Guide“.


“I use and work with four different approaches to intermittent fasting. All of them entails a 16 hour fast followed by 8 hours of feeding. 3 meals usually, 2 or 4 meals less usually.”


I will follow this 16/8 approach, not eating for 16 hours after dinner and then only eating or consuming nutrients for the next eight hours.


Training is initiated on an empty stomach and after ingestion of 10 g BCAA or similar amino acid mixture. This “pre-workout” meal is not counted towards the feeding phase. Technically, training is not completely fasted – that would be detrimental. The pre-workout protein intake, with its stimulatory effect on protein synthesis and metabolism, is a crucial compromise to optimize results. The 8-hour feeding phase starts with the post-workout meal.


Note: Martin suggests consuming 10 grams of BCAAs (amino acids) pre-workout. It’s little to no calories, so he doesn’t count this as ‘feeding’. It’s a trivial matter in my opinion.

I’ll start counting the feeding window when I consume the BCAAs right before working out. I’ll follow up training with my largest meal of the day and then eat once and maybe twice later in the day. I’ll just keep all of my ‘nutrient consumption’ within the 8 hours.

I’ve never tried BCAAs, I’m willing to try them for a month. It’s called an experiment.  :)


Surplus calories should not be consumed each and every day, but in conjunction with training – when they are likely to be used for repair of damaged muscle tissues and recovery of glycogen stores. Conversely, slight underfeeding on rest days may have benefits mediated via mechanisms that kick in during calorie restriction (on top of the independent and positive effects of intermittent fasting), such as improvement in blood lipids and other health markers.


Based on calculators I’ve used in the past, my  estimated amount of calories when I workout seem to be around 2300 calories. In my current job I stay pretty active so I’m going to only reduce calories on non-workout days slightly. My initial range will be 2000 to 2300, with the lower calorie limits on non-workout days.

I will adjust as needed, adding or subtracting calories as needed based on fat lost, energy levels, etc.


I maintain a high protein diet and cycle carbs and fat depending on day. I chew most of my calories and my diet consists of whole foods primarily. By doing this, I’m rarely hungry and the diet is enjoyable and varied. I also believe that there are physiological and behavioral benefits to macronutrient/calorie-cycling.


Except for the carb cycling… I love it! :)



  • Because I’m diabetic, will I NOT be ‘carb cycling’.  Other than that, I agree 100% with the protocol.
  • High Protein Diet! … I love it! I can and will comply fully. :)
  • Cycling Fat – this is what I will adjust depending on weight, energy levels etc.


In summing up the dietary guidelines, this is pretty much what I’ve been doing … and it’s been successful.

As I alluded to earlier, I will be limiting alcohol and cheese.


“I prefer to eat big. When I eat, I eat. When I don’t, I don’t. That’s how I’m wired and trying to fight against my natural inclinations always caused me to fail.”


Love it!  Feast and Fast … it is the natural way!


Leangains Workout Guidelines

I’m not going to comment on this, his training page is below. I did buy a gym membership for this ‘experiment’ so let the FUN begin! :)

Training Guide Page

Day 1
Deadlift – 2 x 6
Row or Overhead Press – 3 x 8
Accessory: Calves, biceps or triceps – 2 x 10

Day 3
Bench press – 3 x 8
Row or Overhead Press – 3 x 8
Accessory: Calves, biceps or triceps – 2 x 10

Day 5
Squat – 3 x 10
Weighted Chin-Up – 3 x 8
Accessory: Calves, biceps or triceps – 2 x 10



Summing Up Leangains Experiment

My starting weight is 161.6 lbs or 73.3 kg. Below is a picture of the last 7 days.

I’m using body weight to help measure my success… but I don’t care about losing weight, in fact I’d  ideally like to gain weight (muscle mass) but lose body fat.


Major Points

  • 16 hours fasting daily, with an 8 hour feeding window
  • BCAAs pre-workout
  • Limiting wine and cheese
  • 2000 – 2300 calories per day (adjusted as needed). I will remain mostly carnivorous, eating only occasional low carb vegetables) in addition to meat and eggs.


Suggested Leangains Links

The Leangains Guide

Fasted Training Boosts Muscle



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