Getting Started With 16:8 Intermittent Fasting on The Leangains Method Diet

When you start a new diet you’ve got a lot to work out. It’s hard. Your body and brain struggle to incorporate change, and the newness of the approach introduces uncertainty and can lead to flail. You’ve got to make loads of decisions all while maintaining control and willpower is critical. You’ve got to figure out:

  • What to eat — What types of food are allowed? What macronutrients are you shooting for (e.g. grams of protein, carbs, fat)?
  • When to eat — Are you trying to eat at certain times? Not at other times?
  • How much to eat — If you eat a lot of food at one meal, how does that impact future meals?
  • When to workout — Oh right, your diet probably has a workout attached to it. So you gotta figure out when you can get to the gym—and then what exercises to do, how often, and how heavy.

It’s no wonder diets are so groan-inducing.

Understanding Bodyweight and Glycogen Depletion

If you are dieting or are planning to start a diet, you need to understand the connection between bodyweight and glycogen, that is how carbohydrates get stored in your liver and muscles, so you don’t overestimate your weight loss as you cut carbs—or your weight gain if you add some back. Understand the connection and you’ll have a much better chance of keeping your cool for the long-haul when swings inevitably happen.

So what exactly is going on?

The Leangains Method | Diet & Book Review

Does the world need another diet book or fitness routine? Check the news and you see obesity levels rising globally, ever more new and weird diets, and a lot of people wanting to improve their health but failing, lacking the tools, gumption, or know-how to do it.

Available at, of course, Amazon for $10. NOTE: All links to the book in this review are affiliate, which basically means I make a little more than fifty cents if you happen to buy the book based off this review. Yay. 🤷‍♂️

Think about this: we have two popular diets right now that are both, on the face, downright extreme. One is based on eating big ribeye steaks every day with no fruits or vegetables (The Carnivore Diet). Another is based on eating fat and little fruits, veggies, and a little protein to maintain a constant state of ketosis (The Keto Diet).

This isn’t diet innovation, it’s flail. And with flail comes failure. So while we may not need another “new” diet, we do need a method in the madness. A method that works.

Today, August 16, 2018, after nearly a decade of waiting, Martin Berkhan has put to words a system—a methodbacked by research, practiced successfully by thousands, and “perfected.” It’s called The Leangains Method: The Art of Getting Ripped ($10, Amazon Affiliate Link).

For the unfamiliar, Berkhan is the Polish-German Swede who originated 16:8 intermittent fasting over ten years ago. He’s deadlifted 700+ lb. (315+ kg) at over 3.5X his bodyweight and is, well, shredded. It’s ridiculous how lean and strong the guy is.

Martin transformed his physique over years, learning the most effective way to do it through trials, tribulations, research, and clients. The Leangains Method is his story—and what he learned, distilled so you can put it to work in your life.

I’ve followed Martin via Leangains.com for years and have come to know him better than most—I even get a shout in the Acknowledgements to the book. Aside from him (now) being a friend, Martin has been my coach and teacher, often in ways that I’m not sure he realizes. Martin’s greatest strength isn’t his deadlift, it’s his focus and no-bullshit attitude. Through it, he’s acquired clarity of mind on how to be strong and lean—and then shared that clarity with us.

Before and after photos may be cheesy, and, well, when they are yours, they make you squirm. A lot. But publishing them is proof: The Leangains Method works. It worked for me first when it was in it’s infancy almost a decade back—after trying and failing at low-carb, Paleo, CrossFit, and more.

The Leangains Method still works for me to this day.

If you’re interested in The Leangains Method and want to know more, well, read on.

Seth Roberts and the Shangri-La Diet

I cite Seth Roberts’ blog a great deal over at Linked Down. Seth is a Psychology Professor at Berkeley and an avid self-experimenter. I’ve learned a great deal from subscribing to his blog.

For those who don’t know, Seth Roberts created the Shangri-La Diet, which is a diet centered around reducing the association between flavor and caloric load. I haven’t read the book, so this is an approximation of how it works, but the gist is that the more correlated taste is to caloric load, the greater hunger can be, the harder it will be to cut calories, and the higher your body’s set point for weight will be. “SLD” hacks this relationship via ingesting flavorless calories within certain windows of time. These flavorless calories reduce the brain’s association of high energy density and high flavor. Interestingly enough, the macronutrient source of the calories may be unimportant: you can do SLD with oil, sugar water (so long as it is flavorless), or nose-clipping while eating protein. If you’re skeptical about this diet, I suggest taking a trip over to the SLD Forums and be prepared to see plenty of evidence that SLD works.

Even as I have not tried SLD, it is a fascinating idea and it seems that anyone who is serious about better understanding why we gain weight and what regulates hunger and adiposity must take it seriously enough to figure out how it fits into the big picture of human health. Barring that gargantuan task, it’s at a minimum another way to try and hack weight loss if your current regiment isn’t cutting it for you.

I mention all of this because I stumbled on a 2008 interview between Roberts and Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I’ve blogged about exhaustively. What a great thing to find that two people I admire had a thoughtful discussion and, even better, said discussion has been made available to me?

Blogging, science and the internet FTW.

Back to trying to understand how SLD fits into the grand scheme of human physiology. An interesting comment was made at the bottom of Part 13 of Roberts’ Interview of Gary Taubes:

I’ve thought a lot about how consuming tasteless food could supress hunger. My favorite theory is that it is similar to what happens when an animal is hibernating. The “magical” appearance of calories fools your body into thinking it is living off its fat and then it actually does so.

This comment reminded me of how the metabolic pathways while fasted are the same as when we consume a diet of only fat and protein. One effect of low-carb diets is appetite suppression. Could the common theme here simply be that both SLD and low-carbohydrate diets and/or fasting act to “trick” our bodies into switching to a non-hungry state?

Obviously that can’t be the entire picture because insulin is the storage hormone that is unleashed by carbohydrate consumption (though less so with fructose).

This issue is worthy of further thought.

Delorean: Symptoms of Fat Loss (parts 1&2)

http://avidityfitness.net…ms-of-fat-loss/

There was a time a few weeks back where I started experiencing a bit of insomnia. I immediately associated my sleeplessness with dieting and quickly determined to back off the dieting. It just made zero sense to me that I should be losing sleep because I was trying to lose weight — it just seemed downright extreme and unhealthy, so I quickly backed off a bit on dieting as a result.

Enter in Leigh Peele’s recent blogpost on “symptoms” of fat loss where I learn that insomnia can result from dieting. So it’s not just me, which is reassuring, even though I haven’t had any insomnia problems in two or three weeks (though I also haven’t been losing any more fat!).

So food for thought:

NOW, imagine your body if that flashlight. As time goes on your batteries are running low. How are you going to feel?

  • Less lucid, foggy
  • easily emotional
  • fatigue
  • hunger
  • harder to wake up in the morning
  • muscle soreness
  • sadness
  • insomia

These are not symptoms of overtraining. These are symptoms of fat loss.

Think about it folks – you are removing a physical substance from your body. It was once there but you are trying to take it away. You might say, “well, I put it on easily. Taking it away can’t be that hard. ”

When is the last time you glued something? How easy was that to get on? How much of a pain in the ass was it to get off?

Just fat loss alone doesn’t feel good, it shouldn’t feel good. Anyone that tells you that either doesn’t know, or doesn’t want you to know. That doesn’t mean fat loss can’t be good for you in the long run. It just means what you have to endure while getting there is a real task to be undertaken.

Free the Animal banner

I just finished up a project for Richard Nikoley, friend and founder of Free the Animal. Richard had commissioned me to create a banner for his site, and after hashing out the concepts, I worked on putting together a design.

Here’s the final product:

Some of the ideas the banner is intended to convey are:

  • Man as a self-reliant, rugged individual — a hunter — evolutionarily designed over the eons.
  • That a man’s health is dependent upon his understanding the nature of his genes and putting that knowledge to practical work in a modern age, an age that is drastically different from the gross majority of man’s biological existence on this planet.
  • Human beings are a dominant, independent species, one meant to be free.

Many of these ideas weren’t spoken when Richard asked me to do this design — that is because many of them were already understood. One thing Richard talks little about these days on FtA is his philosophical stance, which centers heavily around an understanding of human beings.

Human beings are intelligent animals. Our intelligence sets us above all other species, but it also enables us to reflect introspectively about our place with regard to the planet and to each other. Such reflection inescapably leads to an understanding that man should be free, both unbound by other men and unwilling to forcibly control his fellow man*. Moral implications aside, it’s this introspection on our nature that leads us to understand how we should approach our health.

Modern man (post-agriculture) has existed for only a handful of millenia, whereas we were evolutionarily designed over some two million years (To say nothing of the millions of years of evolution that occurred prior to homo sapiens). Evolution gave us genes that function best under certain conditions. It’s reasonable to assert that those prehistoric conditions involved a certain amount of activity (i.e. hunting, gathering, play), some amount of scarcity (inability to find food leading to periodic bouts of famine) and substantially limited agricultural technology. How these inputs and constraints molded our genes is a fundamental question worth asking. Free the Animal tackles this question for the purpose of living optimally, as modern men with ancient genes.

“Free the Animal” is a motto. And Richard is expanding on what it means to free the animal his site. Be sure to check it out!

* Except in cases where force is required to defend himself or his property.

Sugar on the brain

Is sugar another addictive white powder?

A recent study suggests sugar may be addictive. Below are parts of the U.S. News article summarizing the experiment and interpretation of the findings. I suggest reading them all:

“Our evidence from an animal model suggests that bingeing on sugar can act in the brain in ways very similar to drugs of abuse,” [said] lead researcher Bart Hoebel . . .

“Drinking large amounts of sugar water when hungry can cause behavioral changes and even neurochemical changes in the brain which resemble changes that are produced when animals or people take substances of abuse. These animals show signs of withdrawal and even long-lasting effects that might resemble craving,” . . .

A “sugar addiction” may even act as a “gateway” to later abuse of drugs such as alcohol . . .

For the new research, rats were denied food for 12 hours a day, then were given access to food and sugar (25 percent glucose and 10 percent sucrose, similar to a soft drink) for 12 hours a day, for three to four weeks.

The bingeing released a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine each time in the part of the brain involved in reward, the nucleus accumbens. “It’s been known that drugs of abuse release or increase the levels of dopamine in that part of the brain,” Hoebel said.

But it wasn’t only the sugar that caused this effect, Hoebel explained — it was the sugar combined with the alternating schedule of deprivation and largesse. . . .

But longer periods of abstinence didn’t “cure” the rats. Instead, there were long-lasting effects with the animals: They ingested more sugar than before, as if they were craving the substance and, without sugar, they drank more alcohol.

My anecdotal experience confirms the above findings. For one, the more I have abstained from sugar and refined carbohydrates (the latter of which are one tiny step away from being sugar), the easier it has become to strictly avoid sugar/carbohydrate-dense foods. This suggests to me that the addiction can be controlled by almost completely abstaining from the “drug,” sugar in this case.

Of note, however, is that in those instances when I have fallen off the wagon* and started eating sugar/refined carbs, I tend to overeat/binge. Is this the behavior of an addict? Or is it the psychological response to the forbidden fruit? Or is it a predictable response of treating a diet like a binary system? I.e. going from strict adherence to the diet to “Well I already ate that candy, might as well have some ice cream, too!” Any of these are plausible explanations for my behavior.

The alcohol angle is fascinating: I’ve experienced a clear connection between alcohol and carbohydrate-binge-eating. As before, I am unclear how the alcohol is catalyzing my reaction — is it that alcohol impairs my judgment, handicapping my will power? Or could it be more fundamentally metabolic — the alcohol spurs a chemical reaction resulting in craving sugar/refined carbohydrates? Why do I go from having little-to-no craving for French fries and tator tots to no-holds-barred “pass the ketchup now!” after downing three or four beers.

I have previously blogged on how hard liquor has zero carbohydrates. I’ve since learned that hard liquor (i.e. whiskey) will cause an insulin response even though there are no carbohydrates in the alcohol. Could insulin have something to do with this#?

This study, rather than confirming something I’ve suspected about the addictive nature of sugar, leaves me with more questions than answers. Is modern man doomed to be addicted to sugar? Is sugar addiction similar to alcoholism in that the only successful means to control the addiction is to avoid entirely the addictive substance? Can abstaining from sugar/refined carbohydrates make the addiction worse? Is sugar a poison that should be taken in small doses to control its ill-affects (A particularly strange notion)?

It seems there are more questions than answers. However, I maintain that sugar in any close-to-raw form is unnatural, which means that our evolutionarily designed bodies are inept at handling it. And it seems reasonable to conclude that, even if I tend to overeat refined carbohydrates when I do consume them, over the long-term, I’m still drastically reducing my intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates by maintaining a lifestyle focused on a low-carbohydrate, natural diet mixed with intermittent fasting.

* How often have you heard the phrase “fallen off the wagon” to describe failure at dieting? I hear it all the time (and use it). Probably just a coincidence, this phrase originates in alcoholism. Here we have a study that paints sugar as being similar to alcohol in its addictive characteristics.

# I can’t help but wonder if insulin is the culprit behind addiction to both alcohol and sugar. Has anyone looked into this?

Back to basics: Fasting and Fasted workouts

Having returned from India and a month-long hiatus from eating healthy and working out, I started brewing on a strategy to “get back at it” and continue working to my ultimate goal, which is achieving never-before-seen (on me) lean-ness and vasculature.

My approach for most of the summer had been working out about five days a week (doing CrossFit) with daily fasting (i.e. 16 hour fasts daily). I tracked a lot of my daily workouts via my workout blog.

Unfortunately, I ran into any number setbacks as I had a couple long periods where I couldn’t manage to eat right or workout (A two week stint out west and a three week stint in India).

That brings me back to today. I’m going “back to basics,” which for me, was eating breakfast/lunch and the fasting until dinner the following day, with a weight-lifting oriented workout an hour or two before breaking my fast. This method worked for me the first time, stripping away a great deal of fat and focusing my diet/weight-training efforts. This time around, the only tweak I’m implementing is that I will do two fasts per week, lifting on days I break the fast, working out on days I eat, and resting on any day I begin a fast. Per usual, my diet will be carb-light, which means no breads, rices, cereals or starchy vegetables while still allowing for most fruits (apples and berries being preferred), some cheats (ice cream), and alcohol.

Goal is to try this for three weeks, track my progress daily and see how I come out on the other end. Stay tuned.

Being healthy on the road

Traveling has an uncanny tendency to thwart healthy routines. It is difficult both to make time for exercise and to eat healthy amidst the bevy of fast food restaurants, hotels, free food, abundant spirits and people who eat differently than me. How do you navigate these health obstructions while on the road?

I’m hardly an expert, but here is how I’m managing to maintain a low-carb diet replete with activity while being away from home:

  • Be active. Some Hollywood star has the following motto: “I try to break a sweat everyday.” (H/T IF Life) This just seems like a robust life-motto that reverberates in my head — a life where you exert enough effort to break a sweat every day just seems right to me.

    On the road, it can be difficult to do this with limited equipment. I like having a kettlebell around, but if you’re flying, you can forget about taking a 35 lb. or 53 lb. kettlebell along for the ride.

    This means you have to improvise. Good ways I’ve found to improvise include running sprints, doing push-ups, and air squats. I’m still trying to find a good pull-up substitute that can be performed with everyday furniture (Any ideas?).

  • Skip a meal or two. Fasting is such a powerful tool to recenter/refocus after finding yourself lost in the bad habits that result from traveling. I’ve found the easiest way to fast is to skip breakfast. Depending on how you’re feeling around lunchtime, feel free to skip lunch, too. I did this yesterday, not eating anything until dinner and I felt great all day and even managed a nice workout compliments of a treadmill and one of those all-in-one weightlifting machines (Improvise!).
  • Go for level-two fast food. I just made up that Level II distinction. What I mean by it is that you should take the extra ten minutes to seek out local restaurants that can serve up some healthier takeout dishes. For me, I’ve eaten a few greek salads with gyro meat or chicken. It’s not ideal but its better than getting a number five combo from McDonald’s.
  • Don’t strive for perfection. When you inevitably cave to cravings and eat that fresh-baked cinnamon bun that was calling your name at the hotel breakfast bar, let it go. Striving to acheive a perfect maintenance of your healthy habits while on the road is a recipe for failure. It’s okay to deviate — just take steps to get back on track (i.e. trying a mini-fast or having an intense workout in the hotel gym).

So that is what I’ve come up with so far. I’m interested to hear any ideas from any readers regarding other ways to be healthy “on the road”. Please comment if you think of something you’d like to share!

Finally, one of the hardest parts about breaking routines is getting back on track after the traveling is over. That topic remains a discussion for another day: though I will say that I’ve found fasting to be an excellent way to “re-rail” post-vacation.

One month CrossFit update with photos

Quick update on CrossFit progress before I sack out for the night.

Been about a month since switching from my homemade workouts to CrossFit. Since starting, I’ve completed four to five workouts a week. For the past two weeks (approx.), I have been practicing daily eating-window-style fasts1. Over that same two-week time period, I’ve also cut back on alcohol consumption on days I worked out. Even still, there was a glutinous July 4th last weekend, where I managed to scarf down three DQ blizzards over four nights with a monster bowl of ice cream the night in the middle. I slipped up. It happens. It’s okay!

The alcohol-fasting is just an experiment to ensure that I don’t down-regulate testosterone, or increase cortisol, thereby maximizing post-workout gene expression.

If you’re wondering, I consider four to five highly-intense workouts a week to be too much to maintain indefinitely2; however, I’ve been driving myself harder in anticipation of achieving the desired results faster.

Some five months since embarking on this lifestyle-shift, I’m happy to say that the combo has been a resounding success so far and I believe will prove out to be a success indefinitely. My goal is to publish my before shot from February and an after shot in August (Just a guesstimate. The goal is satisfaction with with my leaning out, which is equivalent to achieving some optimal vasculature and probably means reaching around 7% body fat).

Until then, I’ve decided to publish some interim before and after voyeurism. I submit the following self-taken camera phone pictures, taken four weeks apart on June 12 and July 9, 2008, from left to right.

Believe it or not, I’m flexing my midsection in both photos. What’s making up the change? A bit more muscle combined with a bit less adiposity. I’m 27, 5’10.5″ and around 168 in both photos. I’m happy to say that I’m currently more lean and defined than I’ve been since I was less than ten years old. Prior to a few months ago, I had given up on leaning out. Just didn’t think it was in my genes.

I was most happily wrong.

Regarding CrossFit, I did the “Nasty Girls” workout today, subbing out pull-ups and dips at a ratio of 3:1 for the normally prescribed seven muscle ups. This made for three rounds of:

  • 50 air squats
  • 21 pull-ups
  • 21 dips, and
  • 10 hanging powercleans @ 95 lbs

I managed to complete it in 19:56, which is incredibly slow relative to CrossFit vets; however, I was happy with my time — likely because I thought I was about to die at the end, and I managed to rock out all 63 pull-ups and dips.

I could not have accomplished this without practicing insulin control. That is, without a doubt, the secret ingredient to maximizing my health.

Footnotes

1 Whereby I compress my eating window to about eight hours — usually noon or 1 pm to 9 pm though its just a target. My workouts tend to fall in the middle. This is (intended to be) similar to the Lean Gains Intermittent Fasting approach (Martin Berkhan).

2 No reason to put your body through that much chronic stress.