Leangains Guide Diet Review with a Sample Meal Plan and My Results after 2 Months of Intermittent Fasting part 1

Hey guys, it's been a while since I wrote here, hope you are all doing fine. First of let me explain why  was Lean gains so appealing to me that I had to try it. I guess the main reason was that at some point after not missing a meal for 2 years (6 meals + protein shake per day for 2 years) I just lost it and couldn't keep up.

I was basically doing what everybody in the fitness and bodybuilding industry said it was the right way to do things.

Here is some of the stuff that was part of my daily life: carrying around food in plastic containers, always looking at the watch if it's time to eat, eating even when I wasn't hungry because it was TIME, had to eat before bed and every morning as soon as you wake up eat as fast as I can so I have time to get ready for work.

I realized I'm spending most of my free time eating and preparing food. Crazy 🙁 After reading lean gains guide that claimed there was no difference between 2-3 meals and 6 meals first I didn't believe it. Maybe a part of me didn't want to admit that all of the things I believed were true and all the things that I struggled to maintain in my daily routine didn't really matter.

So after a month of deciding if I'm going to let go of my old habits I decided to finally free myself and try leangains. This article is directly a result of my experience from last 2 months of doing the leangains style of eating.

Lean gains vs. Carbo cycling

Carb Cycling MemeAs you probably know if you read my blog carbohydrate cycling was my diet of choice for cutting and clean bulking, generally it's very difficult to follow, results are amazing, energy levels are sky high and I've been doing it for 2 years.

Also I'm very happy to hear regular feedback from people that followed my carb cycling diet for cutting and got great results.

If you are not familiar with carb cycling you can check out the full article here. It's a very hard diet to keep up with and I would only advise it for very advanced people with at least 2 years of experience with following strict meal plans.

When comparing lean gains with carb cycling it's like another planet, so for most of you guys you'd want to keep reading this and you check out carb cycling later.

Basically if you are after the results they are the same. Difference is that leangains is a more sustainable system when aiming for long term. Instead of cycling 3 different days low, moderate and high carb you cycle 2 days your workout days and your off days.

All though some of carb cycling lovers might argue here that for some workout days you don't need the same amount of calories (arms vs. legs workout) but to be honest just look at it on a weekly basis and you'll find that in the end it's the same input and output of kcal.

I'm not gonna spend any more words on writing about carb cycling as it's all written in the other article, all you need to know is that it's possible to get the same great results without all the problems of carb cycling.

Basic lean gains guide principles

These are the basic concepts of the diet taken directly from Martin Berkhan (author of Leangains guide), I'm going to go through each one and explain a bit what you need to know.

8 hour eating window

This means you need to ingest all your daily calories within an 8 hours period. On typical work days I wake up at 7 AM and go to sleep at 23:00, my first meal of the day is around 12:00-12:30 and last meal is usually 20:00 – 20:30 so that is my eating window.

You can sometimes push it to 13:00 – 21:00 but as long as don't do to extreme changes all the time it's all good. Sometimes I also end up eating at 22:00 but that isn't my typical day, it's all OK as long as you follow the routine.

You might be wondering how I don't get hungry in the morning and I also thought that would be a problem but really it's not, it's just what you are used to. I wake up have my green tea and drink water till 12:00, funny thing about this diet is that I've felt hungrier when I had my breakfast as soon as I woke up.

Outside of this eating window you shouldn't consume any calories. Things that are allowed: green tea (without sugar), water, coffee (without sugar), calorie free sweeteners and sugar free gum. Diet soda (0 calories) is acceptable too but you should avoid that in general for numerous health issues caused by artificial sweeteners and additives.

How many meals should you eat?

Intermittent Fasting MemePersonally I prefer to have 3 meals, my workout is usually around 18:30 and I like to have my second meal around 16:30. I feel like my workout is a lot better on full stomach (2h after a meal).

Basically you can have as many meals as you want as long as you eat them inside the 8h window and that you fit your daily calorie intake goal.

Some eat 2 some do 4 meals, I prefer 3 and I have good results and to be honest it seems the most logical to eat breakfast, before and after workout.

What about calorie intake?

Calories are all that matters, that's the single most important thing you should know about all diets. Knowing how many calories you eat and your calorie goal is essential to reaching or maintaining your physique.

There is no way around this, if you don't count calories start doing it. The sooner you start the better.

Easiest way to find out your calorie numbers is by using a calculator to get a rough estimation of the intake and then after you set a calorie goal and eat food to match it you measure yourself every Monday morning after toilet on empty stomach on a weight scale (has to be the same scale) and see if the weight is going up or down or staying the same.

I suggest you try to find out your maintenance level first and then adjust it to fit your goal, so take 3 weeks to find out your maintenance and then you have a great base to start gaining muscle or cutting fat.

As far as leangains rules, you want to consume at 50-60% of your total calories after workout. So my last meal is the biggest on workout days. On rest days my biggest meal is breakfast where I also aim to consume 50% of total calories and very high protein.

Here is a great calorie calculator designed specifically for intermittent fasting and it works great for lean gains. Link

Macro and micro nutrients

For every meal plan after you set your calories you need to split those calories into macro nutrients. I keep my protein high around 230 grams per day which is around 35% of my total calorie intake on workout days and around 40% of my total calorie intake on off days.

Carbs and fat vary depending if it's workout or rest day, on workout days I like to have more carbs and on rest days I reduce the carbs and up the fat a bit. You can check out a sample meal plan on the bottom on this article where I'm going to show you exactly how much calories I intake and from which food.

Difference with lean gains and some other diet is that you want to consume most of your carb calories after exercise and keep the protein high in all meals so for example my last meal + protein shake have 1255 kcal out of 2620 total on workout days and the majority of calories come from protein (~120 g) and carbs (~120 g).

Micro nutrients also important but they should be passively handled if you eat a good amount of vegetables and carbs from healthy sources like Oats. If you are still worried about that you can always throw in a multivitamin and mineral supplement to cover everything.

Supplements and Leangains

As far as supplements I'm not a big fan of throwing away loads of money on them. In my opinion supplements are a nice addition if you have extra cash but most of you don't need them and won't feel any difference. If you are cutting with a very large calorie deficit vitamin and minerals supplements are great but I don't recommend you do that in the first places so let's get back to lean gains.

Supplements I use are whey protein, minerals (calcium, zinc and magnesium) and fish oil.

Whey protein isolate is there for practical reasons, it makes my life a lot easier as I don't have time to eat 230 grams of protein purely from solid food. If I had the spare time to prepare solid meals and chew I wouldn't drink whey.

– The 3 minerals (calcium, zinc and magnesium) are something worth investing in my opinion, with very heavy training and no red meat I rely on these to make sure I'm not missing out on anything.

Omega 3 Fish oil is essential for good health. This is a supplement that most people can benefit from, if you don't eat omega 3 rich fish every day get fish oil in pill form. Your goal should be to intake a minimum of 2 grams of EPA + DHA, this amount will be enough to get all the benefits.

Benefits of Leangains and my experience with Intermittent Fasting

The biggest benefits I can think of is definitely more free time, I can't imagine going back to 6-7 meals. I can't put it to words how liberating it feels to switch from 7 to 3 meals.

With 3 meals I'm more  productive and it's much more practical if you have other tasks in life except eating. You guys probably wonder by now what's the difference between leangains and the typical average American diet with 2-3 meals.

The biggest problem is that the average Joe has no idea how many calories he needs or how many calories he consumes.

Also you probably noticed people always have snacks (they don't have control over that) and these snacks are constantly spiking insulin which prevents all the benefits of Intermittent fasting like prolonged fat burning. Also the typical American junk food diet has very bad food choices which don't even cover the basic protein intake, has too much sodium, lacks vegetables and fiber.

Thing I noticed about leangains is that my focus improved and energy levels are much more stable  than while I was having 6 meals (which goes against what's said in most fitness magazines and forums).

Problem with many meals is that after each meal you get an insulin spike which shortly after results in a sugar drop that causes bad mood.

I've noticed that 3 large meals give a more consistent energy flow because of the volume of food, higher fat and larger quantity fiber ingested at once.

Effects on gaining muscle and losing fat

After 2 months of following lean gains I haven't noticed any difference in my physique after switching to 3 meals, my calories and foods are same as before and it's only logical to assume that meal frequency doesn't play any role in body composition. It's all calories in and out.

Right now my main focus is building some lean muscle mass so I'm doing 150 kcal over maintenance on workout days and on rest days I keep maintenance calories. The meal frequency and style is sustainable long term and for big family events or some celebrations where I have to “cheat” the only thing I have to do is create a calorie buffer.

For example I'm skipping meal 2 and having all those calories in meal 3.

This works perfect and it's much easier to manage a social life as your meals are mostly at the same time as everyone else. It's funny how when I first started this everyone was shocked when I didn't turn down pizza or cake like I used to.

Mario from ShockingFit.com

I was a big believer in clean diets with no cheat meals and yes it works, the results are great but now I'm testing if food choice does matter at all. I'm testing for example if I can have chocolate and reduce some rice and almonds while maintaining the calorie balance with the same end result.

So far this is working great, I don't notice any side-effects like increased fat gain or muscle loss, of course you don't want to have entire meals replaced by snickers or chocolate. But a cheat every now and then won't kill you and to be honest there are more benefits to this than downsides.

Leangains sample diet

Here is a sample diet for lean gains which I've made using my macros and calorie intakes for a clean bulk with these basic principles. Feel free to use this diet and modify the calories to fit your goal. Also the picture is my current physique, I'm very happy with my progress so far and I'm glad I can share my thoughts with your guys.

Download the sample diet: ShockingFit.com Lean gains Sample Diet

Damn, this was a long one. I'm going to continue my review in part 2 where I'll present my personal workout for Lean gains and how intermittent fasting effected strengthpump and muscle gain.

I believe for all of you that are serious about finding a sustainable meal plan lean gains is worth trying, it works great for me and I hope you'll have the same success.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article, stay tuned for part 2 and good luck with your fitness goals. – Mario

Update: PART 2 of this article is live at https://shockingfit.com/leangains-workout-review/ and it also includes a full Leangains workout routine for you to download and use.

Leave a comment with your thoughts on this and if you are willing to try it out.

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  • Aaron

    very nice review!

    can you post a sample diet for how you cut to this low body fat

  • Tyson

    What routine were you doing while you were on leangains?

    • I’ll post the routine soon. It’s something like strength training 4-6 reps with a focus on compound movements

  • Joe

    Mario im fascinated at how easily you broke down Berkhan’s lean gains approach. If you don’t charge a fee for your help, can you send me an email i’d really like to get to talk with you. I need your help in making a new template, routine, guide, etc. I’ll be doing my best version of leangains that i made up everyday while checking for your response everyday, PLEASE help me out my way is probably not so good!


    • Hey Joe, I do Skype 1 on 1 consultations if it’s a client who needs a complete revamp of fitness lifestyle and routine. If you are interested about the Skype thing I can email you my Skype username

      • Joe

        damn skype would be awesome, but i have no mic. are the 1 on 1’s done on your own time? im pretty experienced with this whole nutrition/workout scene i just need some sort of a direction. maybe since i have no mic we can chat or something? let me know. thanks for a quick reply

        • Yea, I normally charge a 30$ fee per session which lasts up to 45 min. You can ask anything you want and it’s best if you prepare some questions beforehand so you can get the most value out of the chat/call.

          • Joe

            im currently in between jobs so can’t even afford 30…well i guess maybe another time, ill just do my own version for now. thanks for quick replies again, good luck.

          • Hey man, you can always ask some simple questions in the forum and I’ll help you out. Just I don’t have a lot of time to do free coaching over Skype and it would be unfair to my current clients

  • Amy

    It is amazing how this intermittent fasting seems to go against what everyone has told us for so long now. I found this out for myself but did not know that this fasting had become popular. I lost about 30 pounds the old fashioned way of jogging a few miles almost every day, incorporating resistance training and eating less junk food. It was 6 years ago and I was only 16 at the time so I had to use the resources that I had available. I was down to 123 lbs and quite happy with my body. Now 6 years later, work and school seemed to hinder my progress but I still managed to hold my weight until recently. I moved out on my own and my boyfriend and I ate out more than we should, etc…
    Well, after almost a year of living together, I noticed my pants were a little snug. I knew I had packed on a few pounds but was unaware it was 15lb! Half of my initial progress I had worked so hard for was gone!! I was determined to lose the weight faster than before. I started working out at home with some free weights and a jump rope a few times a week, eating out less and making better overall food choices. My diet was still far from perfect but 10x better than it had been.

    In 2 months I lost the 15 pounds and 3″ off my waist and was feeling much better. When I came across this website I realized I had been doing this all along. I almost always skipped breakfast! I felt better if I delayed my first meal of the day. I have pretty much been doing the 8-10 hour a day diet for ever! However, I am thankful that I came across this website with more details and armed with much more knowledge than I was before. I finally feel confident enough to go to the gym and use the “guys side” of the gym 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing your experience bro. Seems like you are on the right track as far as weight loss goes!

  • Róbert

    Nice job Mario! When will be here part 2???

    • I’m being really lazy with writing lately 🙂 But I’ll try to make myself do it these days. It’s gonna be a long one for sure!

  • Róbert

    Is better after workout eat high glycemic carbs or low glycemic carbs?
    And do you eat any carbs on rest day?

    • I prefer Low GI carbs all the time except in my post workout shake where I put powdered glucose with whey. I go with carbs that have the most fiber in them that digest slow.

      About carbs on rest days, the way I do it is just reduce the quantity to match my Calorie input for that day but everything else stays the same

      • Róbert

        I drink 10 min. after workout BCAA + Glutamine, then after 15 min. Whey with Creatine. Soon as is possible i eat a lot of chicken meat with white rice, then some bananas or apples. I also eat some chocolate, pizza or something else to get my workout day calories.

        Reason why i eat High GI carbs is that they rise very high and rapidly the insulin spike, also insulin spike falls quickly down and the fat burning can fast go again on, when i go to sleep.

        Am i correct with this or should i change my carbs to brown rice with oatmeal? I am on LG just less than 2 weeks and i try to do this protocol 100 %.

        Thank you for discussing with me about this.

        • Well, I personally don’t like to use “junk food”. What I do is “save” it for my re-feeding cheat meals to take maximum advantage of the leptin boost. My 2 meals before workout are ~25% calorie intake each and after workout is ~50% of total daily calories.

          There are some things with the protocol that Martin doesn’t explain in the free articles but it’s common sense that oats will provide more nutritional value than white rice or pizza.

          The insulin spike is overrated in my opinion and it’s enough to have 20g of powdered glucose in your protein shake, even whey itself will raise insulin enough. I put in 20g of simple carbs just to speed it up and it’s easier to fill my macros this way.

          So to conclude, if you want to follow my advice do brown rice or oats in your last meal after the protein shake. Avoid fruit or dairy in general and save your cheat meals to be used only once a week.

          • Róbert

            Ok it make sense what you write and i will do just one cheat day per week, when i will eat foods like pizza and other “junk foods”. Numerous “junk foods” after each workout is typical for CBL and we are doing LG. I will follow this advice from you.

            And i will try to limit Bananas after workout, but i think that one piece is still good about 1 hour after workout. If i will go to fat, then i will not eat Banana after workout. And i need to eat Bananas, because they help me to better sleep. 🙂

            About powdered glucose in protein shake i read a great article from George Farah and he says that carbs immediately after workout are not very good, because they destroy your GH level after workout. It´s better to take first BCAA or Hydrolyzed Whey and then Carbs cca. 30 min after workout. I personally eat carbs about a hour after workout.

            And about white rice i will post here a article from Sean Hyson Blog, what he thinks about white and brown rice.

            “15. Eat white rice, not brown. Nate Miyaki convinced me of this and I doubt I’ll turn back. Brown rice has compounds that can prevent the absorption of vitamins and minerals in your food, so while it’s long been thought of as the more nutritious rice option, it’s actually costing you nutrition at the same time. White rice offers little more than glucose—just a way to replenish glycogen stores after training, and that’s mainly when I eat it—but it’s very easy to digest. Because it’s not very filling, you can eat more of it and other foods to get more calories in to build muscle. It’s been several weeks now and I haven’t gotten any fatter from white rice. It tastes pretty good—I’d say better than the brown stuff—and it pairs well with many meals.”

            I hope you don´t take all what i write like a attack against your person, because i really like your blogs. I just want to know your opinion about this stuffs. 🙂

          • Bananas are good! I personally don’t really like to eat fructose you probably know that it can’t fill your muscle glycogen stores and can go only to liver storage which are much smaller. Anyway, that’s a complicated process and if your calories intake is on points, below maintenance or maintenance there will be no fat storage.

            I’ve been adding glucose to my Post-workout shake which I drink 20 min after workout for years now and I’ve trained with professional athletes who do the same. That’s for passing on the info I’ll definitely look into this, I used to go nerdy and research all this stuff before and tbh when I found something that works I stick to that so I haven’t even considered changing this. 😀

            Never heard about such compounds in brown rice, can you please post names of them. I wanna look into this because oats and brown rice are my main carb sources and this brown rice thing sounds bad :O

            Don’t worry about that man, I love to learn new stuff and when I hear something first thing I do is re-evaluate everything I’m doing and see if I can improve it. My ego is not attached to any of this info, I can be totally wrong about everything and tomorrow could write an article that would give the complete oppose information if I found out some new facts/experiences.

            My writing is however based on experience, I do read and watch a lot of this stuff but not until I’ve personally tried it on my skin I don’t recommend it to someone else.

          • Róbert

            I understand so now, when i don´t eat my workout day calories it doesn´t go to fat, when i eat Bananas. I have problems to get my calories after workout, i am still trying to get used to this new protocol Leangains. Two weeks ago i was on classic program with 6 – 8 meals per day. 😀 But LG are really good and i love it.

            If it works for you with glucose in whey after workout, then here is no reason to change it for sure.

            Here is the link about that white and brown rice:

            I too like to read new stuff about diet, meals or workout. One month ago i never thougt that i will be on LG with 2 or 3 meals per day and it works better then classic program.

            Today i again don´t get my workout calories damn:D Any advice on this how soon as possible settle to this program LG? 🙂 I hope it will take max. a one week.

          • The switch is kinda hard but soon you’ll get used to it. Took me around 2 weeks to move my diet from 7 meals + protein shake to 3 + shake and it’s been great ever since.

            Thanks for the link, I’ll def check it out and also research the brown rice nutrition thing.

            The best way to settle in any program is just to make a routine out of it and write everything down like plan all your food intake and shop accordingly You can use the simple meal plan in the excel file attached to this article and plan your diet to match the Macros. Lemme know if you need any help with that!

          • Róbert

            Yeah eating 6 or 8 times per day is bullshit. It took me a lot of time to understand this thing with Intermittent Fasting. Just after less than 2 week on Leangains and i feel much better. Now i just must get used for 3 big meals. 😀

            No problem man check the thing with white and brown rice and maybe write what you figured out.

            I wanna ask you, if you can do the second part of this Leangains article, where you will focus on nutrition thing. What´s better to eat on LG protocol, the meals you most eat and you have with them best results. Specifically maybe the meals they are best for Body recomposition to fat loss.

          • Just read some stuff on the brown rice thing, thanks for the tip bro it does seem white is better in the end or just switch to sweet potatoes or quinoa.

            Part 2 of this was supposed to be more about workout but year I’ll try to write it down soon, maybe add part 3 also.

          • Róbert

            I was too suprised with the think about brown rice, but i still eat white rice because it tasted better. It seems that i will alternate between white rice, sweet potatoes and maybe quinoa. Yesterday i read one article about quinoa and it seems legit! Tasted quinoa good man?

            Ok bro i hope you soon write those articles about Leangains. Per month or two i will inform you about my progress with LG what i find out. So far take care man, still will check you new articles when you post something. 🙂

          • drnono


            Another thing to add to my killer bro-science fitness diet.
            1. Stay away from Brown rice it stops absorption of minerals and vitamins. (It actually has next to no effect)

          • All the studies I’ve read on this topic are very controversial. It’s best just to go with empiric evidence, bodybuilders eat brown rice and white rice without any problems for decades and there’s no reason to question it.

            Just use whatever tastes better and what is easier to cook 😀

  • Kevin

    The only time I have for my workout is early in the morning between 6:30 and 7:45. Should I fast from the night before till about noon? In other words, is it most advantageous to have nothing to eat for four hours after my workout? Also, does it ruin the principle of intermittent fasting if I take a protein shake after my workout? Thanks

    • In your case, I would do this.

      Train in a fasted state with 10 grams of BCAA taken 20 min before workout.

      After workout at around 7:45 AM I would have my post workout shake, at around 8:15 AM I would have my first meal which would have 50% daily calories with tons of protein and carbs.

      Do a second meal around 12 AM then final meal would be around 4 PM.

      It’s quite similar to what people some people normally do like don’t eat past 6 PM.
      PS. In some Eastern cultures people eat food only during the day, so as soon as the sun goes no more food, your diet plan would be similar to that.

      Let me know what you think of this 🙂 Greetings from Bosnia !

  • James

    Awesome blog post, really enjoyed reading this. Going to give this a try, never even imagined about doing this sort of diet – I have been trying to squeeze 6 meals in each day for the past year, this diet will benefit my lifestyle so much. I’ll be back in a month to give my own personal opinion. Thanks for the information Mario!

    Just a quick question, Shake: 2x Scoop whey + Glucose powdered 40g in the sample diet, is that your immediate post workout shake?

    • Thanks man, glad you are willing to give this a shot. It changed my life for better, I no longer worry too much about eating so many meals, I think it will be good for you too.

      About the Post workout, the way I do is Workout > 10 minute static stretching > 10 min shower > Post workout Shake. After that I drive home, unpack and at around 20 min after the shake I have my last meal of the day.

      If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask!

      • James

        Thanks for getting back to me Mario! Today is my first day of this diet, wish me luck. I can imagine for the first few days waiting for the eating window is going to be the toughest! Appreciate for all your help!

  • Anthony

    What does the diet look on a cardio day (15 minutes of HIIT)?

  • Chris

    Mario…I normally do my training in the am between 5-7. How could I incorporate this diet? Should I eat something right after? then wait till later to start the 8 hour feed state?

    • You should train faster but take 10g of BCAA before workout. Then after do your 8h window.

      • Chris

        what I meant to say is anytime between 5-7…I dont train for 2 hours!! lol..45-60 min tops…Like today I got to gym late (930am) trained till 1030 took BCAA before and after then started feed at 11am…so I eat till 8pm…correct? how many different meals? just 3?

        • Yea just stick to 8h, it’s always better to have a routine so you start your fast and workout at same time each day. And how many meals don’t matter really, I do 3 but sometimes 2.

  • Rocky

    hey mario! I train between 9-10pm. It is still okay to eat a big meal late since I go to bed around 11:30? Thanks

    • It’s not a problem but make sure it’s within an 8 hour window. This means you’ll have to have your first meal at around 2:30 PM so the last can be around 10:30 PM

      • rocky

        Thanks man…

  • Kunga

    Mario. Are we supposed to train differently while on IF or do I do the usual workout like I normally do? ex back & arms, chest &triceps, shoulder &abs etc etc…

    • You can just do your normal workout, it doesn’t really matter. I like to do my workout after the 2nd meal as I’ve found that my strength is at peak around 6 PM so I time that for workout. But yea any split work.

  • Sam

    Looking at your diet plan, looks like your carbs are not too high for workout day and not exactly that low on other days. I thought the calorie split between carbs and fat is 3:1 on workout days and 1:3 on rest days?
    And what’s the point of carb cycling overall?

    • Well, i found it works good this way. I tend to handle carbs pretty good I guess my insulin sensitivity and ecto genetics help a lot. Basically you can experiment with it how you want, I tried more carbs but it didn’t get me any better performance or results so I kept it like this.

      Anyway as far as carb cycling I’ve done that since forever, even when I did 7 meals per day I tried high, med, low carb cycling for a long time and it worked great. I think it helped me stay a bit leaner but can’t really prove it scientifically.

      However now I think that’s unnecessary hassle, better just to do carb/Fat ratio cycling. It’s much easier to sustain long term.

  • Andre

    What would you recommend for a guy working out 3 days a week; a full body program or some sort of split? Or would you recommend more days a week?

    • It doesn’t really matter how many times per week you workout. You have 2 different days as far as nutrition goes. On workout day you’ll have increased calories to match the increased expenditure and on non-workout days you eat less calories.

      So on a workout day you should keep the carbs higher while on rest day you can keep it fairly low because there’s no need. Protein can be the same, fat can go a bit up on rest days since carbs are low but it all depends on how many calories you eat.

  • ash

    Could you perhaps tell us what your training week looks like?

    • Monday – Chest, Tuesday – Back, Wednesday – Rest, Thursday – Shoulders + Triceps, Friday – Legs + Biceps, Saturday and Sunday – Rest

      • ash

        Are you currently doing any cardio after your workouts or on your rest days?

        • On rest days only walking. On workout days if i’m cutting I’ll do 20 min 55-65% intensity cardio on a bike or just jogging in one place 2 times per week. This is done post workout right after I drink my protein shake.

          • ash

            thanks. I will follow your protocol for cutting. I see your point on the excessive cardio during a cutting diet. I did the same thing once and my limbs looked like noodles!!!

  • luis

    have you had problem fitting a very large postworkout meal?my schedule is like yours, i workout at 630 and finish at 8pm; but i finish eating by 1030pm and it feels like forced feeding. i end up sleeping late.

    • Yea I’ve had a problem with that even before leangains when I was doing my workout really late. If I don’t have time for a lot of food, I’ll just blend all the vegetables and drink them after finishing carbs and meat but honestly on Leangains I feel very hungry before my last meal so this hasn’t been an issue.

      Majority of my volume after workout meal comes from vegetables so blending them saved me a lot of time.

  • Yo Mario, am a men’s physique competitor, need some advice from you brah. After reading this and the LG guide you’ve inspired me to try something new.

    Currently my coach has me on the traditional 6-7 meals/day, 5 days of lifting (isolation work mainly, little compound), and shit ton of cardio. Don’t get me wrong this works fine for me to keep me lean, dry and cut as hell.

    But as soon as I try to put some mass I loose the six pac. Every time I prep for a show I feel like I end up loosing some hard earned muscle since I am in a deficit mode and am doing insane amount of cardio. I am hoping I can gain some size on my back and chest in next two months without adding too much fat. I am thinking of doing the following:

    6:00 am — Drink BCAA, oxyelite pro fatburner instead of coffee, Kre-Alk creatine
    6:30 am- 8:00 am– weight session and core
    8:00 am – PWO Whey shake with glucose and Kre-Alk creatine
    8:30- PWO meal with 50% caloric intake

    12:00- 10 g BCAA W/High intensity cardio, walking high incline for 45 mins

    1:00 pm- 2nd meal
    4:00 pm- Last meal

    Fast till 8:00 am next day

    I plan to do the above 5 days a week with compound + iso movements.
    What do you think?

    Great job with your progress btw and thanks for providing all this.

    Any help is appreciated, this lifestyle change would help me out a lot with my job and everything in general.

    • The worst mistake for me on a fat loss diet is cardio like jogging or some Fat burning zone crap. I’ve done that before and lost so much muscle it’s insane, even with 350 grams of protein per day and heavy strength training I still crippled my arms and shoulders pretty bad.

      Now I do once per week Stubborn fat loss protocol 2.0 as HIIT and just walk a lot.

      So essentially I focus on calorie intake reduction from carbs/fat rather than doing tons and tons of cardio.

      About the muscle gain the thing that got me most fat is the transition between fat loss and muscle gain calorie intake. So now I do like 100 kcal per 2 weeks increase on workout days and 50 kcal increase on rest days (till I reach 2100 kcal) like a transitions phase. And also I remove HIIT and post-workout cardio, keep only the walking 30 min per day because of all the health benefits.

      For example if my bottom intake at the end of cutting is 2100 on workout days and 1900 of off days I’ll do 2200 on workout days and 1950 rest days then after 2 weeks it will be 2300 workout / 2000 rest. This increase will be 3-4 times. I’ll end up with around 2800 for workout day and 2100 on rest days.

      It all depends really, if I notice insane fat gain because my metabolism couldn’t calibrate in time then i’ll keep the calories a bit lower for 3 weeks and then increase. It’s all about tracking the numbers.

      • drnono

        I was grossly obese 4 months ago, 220lbs @ 32% BodyFat and after high blood pressure and the first warning of CV disease, cut my diet to 1500-2000kCals, while building upto daily 40mins sessions of cardio. I combined the cardio with weight training 3 times per week (whole body, mass building, no splits no isolation).

        Am now 182lbs @ 15% BF (27lbs of fat). Between then and now I had a InBody720 report which accurately measures fat, muscle etc…
        It reported NO muscle loss, although not much gain, even though my weightlifting levels are double where they were at the start. My resting heartrate is now very low (40-50) and my recovery time is 30secs between sets rather than the 2mins it used to be. I cannot recommend cardio enough for fat loss and fitness.

        I am losing about 4lbs of fat per week on this regime. I will have to get down to 170 to be < 10% BF. That's about 3 more weeks.
        For maintenance I estimate I need 2400kCals per day. (BMR = 1850 + exercise + normal activities) What would you go for on lean gains? Just aim for 2000kCals with the right macros to build muscle and still cut fat, or carry on or add an 150kCal excess on gym days and alternate a deficit and excess?
        BTW: I use cronometer.com to track my diet – it really nails macros and calories

        • It depends on your goal and your body. For someone who’s 32% BF you can’t really lose muscle whatever you do because there’s so much energy to burn from fat, but now once you are at 15% bf excessive cardio will only harm your muscle gains.

          I’d limit it to 1-2 sessions per week, like 1 x 30 min steady and 1 x 6-10 interval sprints.

          Recovery between sets depends on too many variables, typically you should never go under 1 minute. I usually do 90 sec – 2 min with an occasional “shock week” with 30 sec – 1 min to force my body to think it needs to recover faster but then I go back to my normal rest.

          Once you reach you 10% goal you’ll need to gradually start increasing your calories toward maintenance levels first and stay there for 2-3 weeks to re-calibrate. The slower you increase the better it is so your body gets used to higher intake. If you slam it with a lot of calories you’ll get tons of fat.

          Once you figure out your maintenance then slowly start increasing (50-150 kcal per week) until you see gains, It’s impossible for me to know if 2000 kcal or adding 150 kcal will for you. For example myself I was cutting with 2200 kcal.

          If you really want to aim for maximum muscle gain then don’t worry about putting on some fat, since you already have experience you can manipulate your body fat levels at will and doing cycles like cutting/bulking is good for hormone levels. Every cutting/bulking cycle will leave you with more muscle gained than fat, also by alternating these throughout the year you’ll get to know how your body works and that is the only thing that can guarantee results.

          • drnono

            After hitting 15% its been a bit of a shock how the fat loss has stopped when I have raised my calories, after a short illness, but I cannot say I have gained more than a few lbs of fat, if any, over the whole period which is great.

            I have been running a ‘relaxed IF diet’ at about 2500 kcals (average) (150g Protein, 280g Carbs, 90g Fat) for the past 2 weeks after catching the terrible norovirus (the puking/crapping virus) at the gym – I can see why they demand people wipe down the machines now…

            (The 90g high daily fat level is because I was stuffing my face with Almonds. I noted you include a few of these in your diet, and wondered why – I soon found you can only digest 1/3rd of the calories of almonds. And the fibre from Almonds really helps because whey powder really seems to bind together in the gut.).

            Over this period this my weight loss has now stopped dead at 181lbs and 15% BF – while I was still keeping the eating window of IF out of habit and cut cardio right down.

            But to echo everything you have said I have been very surprised at the recent impressive strength gains i.e. Bench went from 120lbs to 140lbs and some visible muscle gains, I now have a vascular pump in my biceps and shoulders.

            To get to 10% from 15% BF at 181lb means I need to lose 9lbs of fat – Thats roughly 2 weeks daily 40 min cardio sessions mixed with whole body gym and cutting back to 1500kCals. I will then take your advice to stabilise and make gains.

          • Keep me posted on your progress. I can see that you’re very dedicated and following the process which is very rare in this community.

            All the best, Mario!

  • Roy

    Hey Mario, seeing as you seem to make onr menu out of the chicken breast with green beans tomato and bell pepper with egg white and almonds 2 times a day, could you maybe give the recipe on how to make a good meal out of these ingredients?

    • I’m not particularly worried about the taste or making some kind of masterpiece meal out of it. For chicken breast just grill them using really low amounts of sunflower oil or no oil at all if you have a pan like that. For green beans I cook the frozen ones. Vegetables I eat raw fresh. Almonds are like snacks between meals. Egg whites are just hard boiled eggs with yolk removed.

      I like to keep things as simple as possible which makes the system sustainable long term and easy to follow even while travelling. I mean you could complicate it by adding some homemade low calorie sauce but i’d rather use my time on other things.

      • Roy

        Ah ok but so it’s not really that you eat all those things in one big meal? It could be that you eat the egg white like an hour later?

        • I eat all except almonds in one big meal. Almonds are like snacks, also you can do delay the egg whites but as along as it’s within the 8 hour window it’s fine.

  • ash

    Hi Mario, its Ash again. At what stage on the IF diet do you really start noticing the results? For example week 4 to week 8 or week 8 to week 12 or after week 12.

    • There’s absolutely no difference as far as my results from 8 meals a day and 3 meals a day with IF. That’s the whole point, 3 meals within 8 hours gives you a more flexible lifestyle making the diet less stressful to sustain long term.

      • ShockingFitFan

        Mario, I think you misunderstood his post. You are saying you can’t notice the difference between progress of eating 8 meals vs 3 meals. He is asking you, if someone starts IF diet, how soon should they expect the results. 4 weeks vs 8 weeks vs 12 weeks.

        • It’s literally impossible to tell. It’s too random, trust the process and just see how it goes.

  • Jon

    Hey man Ive I enjoyed learning about this new method in your article, one question I have is would I be able to drink my milk/casein protein shake right before my 8 hour window ends ?

    Also I was wondering if I should still be increasing my caloric intake if I want to gain more size (while keeping body fat% of course)? Im at 150 lbs. currently and lift 5 times a week, any suggestions or advice would be appreciated. Thanks a lot man!

    • Yea Jon, that works fine. I usually have snacks like almonds just before the 8 hour ends.

      When trying to add size it’s impossible to eliminate fat gain, you will be gaining some fat and that’s perfectly normal. However you can prevent gaining unnecessary fat with gradual increase of calories and measuring your progress.

      So increase a little (like 100-150 kcal) then stick to that for 2-3 weeks until it no longer works, then do the same again. That way you can effectively migrate from cutting to muscle gain in sort of a between phase. If you try to do it like massive calorie change your body won’t have time to adjust the metabolism for the new super high intake and most of the calories will be stored as fat.

      • Jon

        Thx for the reply man! Ive been reading further into the leangains cut because I want to get my bf % down as much as possible, and to do this most articles/sites are saying to do a 3day split with the big 3 (deadlift/chinup, squats, and bench). I feel like this is more for people who are just starting to lift at the gym. I on the other hand have been going for the past 3 years 4-5 days a week. Should I switch over to this too? I’m kind of worried I’ll lose the gains ive made in my shoulders/traps, biceps, triceps, and abs over the past couple years. Thanks again for the advice!

        • Leangains is just a style of intermittent fasting so that you eat your food within 8 hours window. I do not recommend following the routine advised on any websites rather use your own that worked for you.

          • John

            Appreciate the advice! Also, what do you do for abs and how often cause you got the look I’m going for!

          • I train them 2 times per week usually. My main focus is leg and knee raises with a mixture of 6-8 reps + 12-15 reps training and static exercise like planks.

            HIIT sprints help a lot too.

  • Mark

    Hi Mario, I’m 18 years old however I’ve been at this fitness ‘getting lean without killing myself’ since I was 14. I’ve found it pretty hard to sort out the good stuff from the bad – it’s the internet…Could I ask you to guide me a little as in follow me through kicking off the leangains lifestyle?

    • Hey bro, if you have some questions you can ask here and I’ll try to help you if I can!

  • Jason Kelley

    I understand the point you are making about 3 meals a day being better than 8 on IF but do you really think there is any difference compared to 3 meals a day notbusing IF???

    • I haven’t noticed any significant difference except 3 is easier to do.

      • Jason Kelley

        So are you saying the fasting partis pointless as far as you can tell??

        • fasting has numerous benefits itself, you can google those. There’s tons of studies out there to back this up. I’ve noticed a lot more energy, less foggy spikes from eating all the time and it seems easier to sustain lower body fat levels.

  • fitinthemiddle

    the photo of the result looked really nice, the plan really worked for you after waiting some time, you look really fit.

    • It’s been great. Lean gains is an awesome system. My diet currently is a combo of lean gains, primal blueprint, IIFYM on cheat days and Ultramind solution! Results have been amazing.

  • Zaher Iyaso

    Dear Mario,

    Thanks for the amazing site and great information, just I have two questions and I hope you can help.

    1- leangains diet is based on 3 working days (surplus), and 4 days off. Please advise how did you plan or your diet with 4 days surplus.

    2- Can I add swimming to the workout, thus I will be downing 2 days lifts and 2 days swimming. I swim for an hour, passing 2.5 km non stop, with agar age heart rate of 155.

    I have dropped the weight from 92 kg into 69 kg. just I have the extra 5 kg in my belly. And I have below normal muscles.

    Thanks for your help.

    All the best!

    • 1 – Leangains is just a style of consuming nutrition with an 8 hour eating window and a 16h fasting window. It doesn’t matter how many days you are in surplus. If you workout 4 days per week your body needs more calories on those days than if it was just maintenance / rest day so you need to consider that when creating your diet plan.

      2 – I don’t recommend lifting only 2 times per week, you should do minimum 3 times per week. Swimming for an hour is very taxing so you’ll probably need to increase calories a lot to keep up with that.

      As for your weight it does seem quite low, how tall are you?

      I’m assuming below normal muscle is that you haven’t build much muscle which is normal if you just do cardio based exercise like swimming and especially if you diet for that much weight loss. I would do like a maintenance phase to re-calibrate my diet if I were you. Now it’s time for you to figure out your ideal calories and re-balance it so you can then go into bulk or cut. I recommend bulk as 69kg is already too low and you probably been cutting for a long time so it isn’t very efficient anymore.

  • ShockingFitFan

    In terms of if I am already in 10-12% bf zone and want to get down to 7-8% do you recommend IF or carb cycling? All my work outs are at 6-7am as well btw.

    • I’d say use both. Lower carbs on non-workout days increase the fat and protein a bit and on workout days increase carbs. I’ve also simplified it for myself to have only low and high carb days instead of low, med, high like before.

      PS. thanks for the cool name haha

  • Hector

    Mario, Im new to IF and have been struggling in making some progress while on IF, a lot of that due to tracking my calories. But Im also confused on when to do cardio….it seems that my progress in fat loss is always up and down every week. Currently my workouts are M, W, F with cardio tue and Thur, usually HIITs or Battleropes and walking for 20 min after my workouts. Im currently at 245lbs @ 31% fat……Please Help

    • Fat loss should come mainly from a calorie deficit so tracking your daily calorie intake is crucial. If you don’t track you calories you’re setting yourself up to failure.

      Major obstacle when it comes to tracking calories is if you don’t cook your own food or if you always eat different foods throughout the week. This is where you need to organize a meal plan for yourself which you can make into a routine and easily track calories from it.

      There’s a sample meal plan included in the article above to give you a general idea what i’m referring to. When creating your meal plan, first thing is to determine the macro nutrient ratios ( protein ,carbs, fat) I’d say stick to the standard 30% protein 40% carbs 30% fat per day ratio.

      Once you got that covered then you just need to make sure you eat plenty of veggies with each meal so you have the required mineral and vitamins that will fuel your workouts and keep you healthy while losing fat.

      Also make sure you drink plenty of water, 4 liters per day should be a minimum.

      The reason why you should make a diet routine is because it’s much easier to eat less and eat healthy than to spend more time working out. Besides time, there’s actually a limit how much workout your body can sustain for a long period of time. So make sure you get on that diet planning asap.

      • Hector

        Thanks for the quick reply…..currently working on a plan to help me eat better and get the proper calories…..even changing up my workout routine! By the way….any suggestions on cardio?? Im pretty much overweight and looking to see if I should keep up what Im doing now (what I mentioned in the orginal message) or tone it down a bit. Thanks again for your help!!!! HL

        • Cardio = walk as much as possible every day. I’d also do 1 30 min steady cardio session per week and 1 HIIT like 6 all out sprints, if you are too overweight and sprinting would risk injury then go for cycling intervals, just go all out 15 seconds 6 times to get the heart rate up. This you do once a week.

          I don’t think people who are above 15% bodyfat need to focus on cardio a lot, till 12-15% you should be doing diet and occasional jogging/running/cycling intervals just to keep the heart healthy.

  • Harry

    Hey Mario,
    I’ve been doing some on the IF program and stumbled across your site. Lots of great information on your site. Question: I am starting the IF program on October 1st and will start my 8 hr window from 12-8pm. I workout from 6-715AM and wondering if this will impact my eating schedule? Do I continue with the water, 0 calories drinks, coffee, green tea until 12:00. Should I skip my post workout protein shake? Just wanted to make sure before I start.

    • You can have your last meal from 8 – 9 PM. The 8 hours window is not written in stone so it’s flexible enough to sustain long term. Meal after workout should have the largest calories and be the largest meal of the day so you should adjust to that if you’r workout.

      Yes, before the eating window starts only water, coffee, green tea. Don’t skip the post workout shake. Take protein + carbs like dextrose in the shake post workout then ideally have your last meal like 45 min after that shake.

      Your first meal can be 12, 2nd meal 4 PM, last meal 8 PM.

  • Manny

    In the lean gains diet plan you suggest 40g of glucose in the last meal. If I’m training at 7am is there any point in having glucose in the last meal before bed?

    • If you need the carbs to hit your daily macros then yea.

  • sreedhar

    Hi mario,my fasting ends by 5;00pm where i have my post workout shake and after an hour my first big meal (6;00)pm and the second by (9:00) and finally a small meal by (12:00).So would you suggest to start off with the big meal by 6 or continue this way.

    • Do whatever is most sustainable for your lifestyle, as long as it’s within the 8 hour window I don’t see a problem if you’re practicing leangains. It’s not something that will make any difference in terms of results.

  • Nancy Yousry Mikhael

    Hi Mario, I started today with 16/8 plan, I had my first meal at 1 pm which was a shake with fruits, then my second meal was at 5 pm was salad, shrimp , some turkey bacon and 1/4 chicken breast. And my third meal will be may be around 8:30 pm or so after my 30 minutes workout will be another shake with 1/2 frozen banana and 1/2 chicken breast.
    I really need to lose 35 pounds if not 40 pounds! Do u think that plan is good for me or no?
    Are my food choices good?
    Do I need to workout fasting? Which I really can’t as I get really nauseous!
    Do I need to add carbs to my meals?

    And after how long I will start to see results?


  • Nancy Yousry Mikhael

    What do you think about branched chain amino acids while on the plan?