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Commentary On Intermittent Fasting And The Leangains Guide

Martin Berkhan, a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer has gained international acclaim for his Leangains Guide, a nutrition plan that stresses intermittent fasting which includes a daily 16-hour fast followed by an eight-hour feeding period. 

Numerous testimonies and various feedback have been given by people who have tried this eating approach. Let us analyse it a bit further, looking into its potential benefits and drawbacks. 

The Leangains Guide Defined

According to Berkhan, the Leangains protocol consists of two phases:

16 hours of fasting

8 hours of feeding

During the feeding period, three meals are usually eaten. The composition of the meals would depend on the day. If it’s a workout day, carbohydrates are prioritised before fat. On rest days, fat intake is higher. Protein remains fairly high on all days. Berkhan says variables change depending on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels. 

The Leangains Guide focuses on fat loss whilst retaining as much possible. Here are other guidelines which Berkhan puts a premium on:

a. On workout days, one’s fast should be broken with meat, veggies and fruit. If the training is shortly after this meal, eat a few carbohydrates from a starch source such as potatoes and whole-grain bread. Train within three hours of this meal and eat a bigger post-workout meal with more complex carbohydrates. 

One can have his or her favourite treats for dessert as long as it’s not too high in fat and eaten in moderation.

b. Fewer calories must be consumed on rest days. This is done by cutting down on carbohydrate intake whilst focusing on meat and fibrous fresh produce. On rest days, the first meal should be the biggest meal although not necessarily in terms of volume. Berkhan suggests at least 40% of calorie intake for the day should be taken during this meal. The dominant macronutrient should be protein. 

c. For the least meal of the day, include a slow-digesting protein source. Suggested sources include egg protein, cottage cheese or casein protein. Meat and fish are okay if vegetables are added or if one is supplementing with fibre. 

The purpose of this meal is to keep a person full during the fast. More importantly, this ensures that a person has sufficient amounts of amino acids in the body until the next meal. This produces an anti-catabolic effect on muscle protein stores. 

d. Whole and unprocessed foods are always prioritised over processed or liquid foods. The Leangains Guide allows a bit of compromise in special instances. An example of this is when a person is pressed for time and can only consume a quick meal replacement bar or protein shake. 

Advantages of Intermittent Fasting And The Leangains Guide

Surprisingly, many people swear by the results of the Leangains Guide. They say it really helped them put on serious muscle mass and rid themselves of unwanted fat. 

Intermittent fasting works well for certain people who enjoy eating bigger meals as opposed to small ones. This eating plan makes them feel fuller and satisfied, allowing them to hold off any possible food binge. 

Another advantage is convenience. With the reduced meal frequency, advocates of intermittent fasting enjoy the luxuries of reduced prep and cooking time whilst meeting their required caloric intake. In line with this, it also presents a major convenience to extremely busy people who cannot take meal or snack breaks during work hours.

Finally, intermittent fasting is best for people who can go for long periods without eating. An example is Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.   

Disadvantages of Intermittent Fasting And The Leangains Guide

Intermittent fasting may be disadvantageous for busy people who want to get a workout in first thing in the morning. Eating a pre-workout meal with meat to break the fast means waiting at least another hour before they get to work out. Traditionally, a light pre-workout meal such as banana, a whey protein shake and wheatgrass powder is ideal before an early morning workout.

There have also been reports of people who feel lethargic and weak before hitting the gym. Even though the Leangains Guide keys on some carbohydrates for pre-workout purposes, it cannot fully offset the lethargic feeling some people experience due to the 16-hour fast. There have also been some reports of people cramping up with a bloated feeling upon waking up. 

The Leangains Guide may also not be very ideal for people who do not like to eat a lot of food during a short feeding window. They may end up thinking of eating as a chore and not something to be enjoyed. 

Lastly, people with unpredictable schedules may want to stay away from intermittent fasting. Some interruptions such as meetings and family emergencies may arise just when the 8-hour feeding phase begins, resulting in an even longer fasting phase. Not only does this wreak havoc on one’s fitness goals, it also may take its toll on a person’s sanity. Think volatile mood swings, for instance. 

The Final Word

Intermittent Fasting and The Leangains Guide is certainly an attractive option for people who want to bulk up and strip unwanted fat from their bodies. As great as its results are, it is certainly not for everyone. Bottom line: do what works best for you.  

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