4 Years of Different Fasting Methods
This week I’m going to take a break from writing something purely because I’m passionate about it. I will be writing for selfish reasons - saving myself a little bit of time. It’s not that I’m not passionate about the subject, I happen to be quite passionate about it. However I learned long ago that no amount of passion will break down the stubborn refusal to believe something different than what’s built up by media, folklore, healthcare, and any number of sources that give misinformation. I know how long it took me to break down my own mental barriers to where I not only believed, but trusted the research before I tested and saw the results myself. So this article is meant to answer questions for those that are seeking this information, in particular those that seek me out to get my input due to my experiences or success. Yes, this is my selfish reason for writing this. In hopes of cutting down on phone calls, emails, the “not so quick questions” on the way out the door and the onslaught of ways in which people can contact me via social media.
With this point in mind I will not be writing it from a “diet guru” standpoint. Well, mostly because I’m also not a “diet guru” but simply an athlete and a trainer with a lot of experience and success employing a number of different fasting protocols. Since this article is meant for those seeking this information I will make the assumption you have already done some research and understand the basics of the MASSIVE amount of clinical research supporting these methods. Or at least the basic fundamentals that breakfast=BAD, or at the very least that Morning Carbs=VERY BAD. No matter how much I would love to jump into the science behind it, I will not as I would just be regurgitating a lot of analysis compiled by the people that are researching in this field. So instead I will just link you to the people that have written the books and can provide references to the clinical research. I will keep all my rants on the subject out of this article and just keep myself to beating my head against a wall every time I see a commercial saying how good Cheerios are for you, and that they are going to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
This article will not be a sales pitch on this method, but a history of my experiences and how I arrived at my current methods that I am employing. The fasting method works well for those that are comfortable with making moderate muscle gains, but in a consistent manner, while staying both lean and strong. These goals may not be fit for everyone particularly new lifters or those that just need to eat more to put on size. Choosing the correct diet comes down to your goals, discipline level, and lifestyle. The single best book I’ve read is by my late friend Wesley Silveira, Iron Addicts Principals of Fat Loss. It is described as the “only fat loss book you’ll ever need” and I would agree with that.
I am confident that if you take the time to read this article you will come away with some useful information. This confidence comes from the same reasons people seek me out for input on my experiences and thoughts on utilizing fasting as I have:
> Used fasting methodology for years
(Between 7.5% - 10% Body fat since 2008 – underwater weigh verified)
> Used multiple different types of fasting methods
> Succeeded at staying lean year round & competitively strong
(Deadlifting 801 @ 198, and Squatting 1010 @ 220)
(Current best Raw Gym lifts of 900 Deadlift, 826 Squat, 475 Bench @ 220-242bw)
My journey to the world of employing fasting on a daily basis was a slow one. I was a typical gym rat/powerlifter who was afraid of ever entering a catabolic or muscle wasting state at any point. This is how I had grown big and put on a lot of muscle mass to begin with. I wouldn’t go more than 2 hours without consuming or drinking protein. At night I would wake up to down another shake and my wife would get frustrated as whenever we went anywhere I would have to prepare or know exactly what food would be available, and when. This for one didn’t make a great long term lifestyle but I did it until I was in my 30’s. During the tail end of this period, when I stopped adding the significant mass like I did in my early 20’s, I began to get fat. I also noticed that I had to eat super clean all the time and I had to keep a very high protein intake in comparison to carbs and fats. If I didn’t eat super clean and keep my macros perfect the fat would start piling on quick.
At this point I already had to do two long cuts losing 20-30lbs of body fat just to keep my weight from skyrocketing. Around this time Kenton of USP Labs came up with a novel approach to using some of their supplements. I was one of the first testers to use their first Fasted Training Protocol using Anabolic Pump, Recreate, and Powerful on an empty stomach in the morning and then training afterwards in this fasted state. These supplements amplified the effects of the body’s natural Diurnal Cycle putting one immediately into a state of Lipolysis. Currently there is not much data available on the USP Labs Fasted Training Protocol (FTP) as it is in the process of being revamped.
Here is a picture of me prior to using the FTP while weighing 240lbs in 2008. Mind you, this is after having just completed a diet already coming down from 260lbs to get to this point.
What I found on the FTP is that not only did I not waste muscle away like I had read and heard all over, but I actually continued to gain lean mass and get stronger. Using these methods I dropped down to close to 210lbs and was able to compete at 198. The interesting thing is that not only did I achieve my first #1 ranking in the world at that time with my 801 deadlift @ 198 but I PR’d on that lift by over 100lbs. Overall while competing at a weight class that was 44lb lighter than the prior year I still PR’d by 23lbs while only doing a token opening bench press.
At this point I was pretty much sold on the USP Labs FTP method and used it through the remainder of 2009 continuing to increase my total in the 198lb class by 125lb more than the best I had done at 242lbs. My fasted morning training was just on the weekends and the extra morning General Physical Preparedness sessions I was using to drop weight. With my weight body fat now stabilized where I wanted it I had no need for the extra sessions in the morning. At this point was forced to look to other methods at this point if I was to continue utilizing fasting or fasted training.
In 2010 Wesley Silveira put together a modified warrior diet (Metabolic Rebound Diet) for me. This involved fasting for 20-23hrs per day with some BCAA’s mixed in. My total daily food intake consisted of one meal a day post workout after an evening training session. On non-training days I had a 3-4 hour eating window in the evening to consume my total daily calories. There is also a rhythm to the meal as well which is all described in Ori’s books. Using this diet I achieved my absolute leanest, and also learned a very important lesson. I did not lose ANY muscle mass during the 9 months I was on this diet. This diet flies directly in the face of nearly all the ‘fundamental’ diet and nutrition logic that I had been told my entire lifting career, bringing me to question everything critically from here on out. The first several months of doing this diet the training was very intense and euphoric but after a while my energy levels for training did begin to dip. I tried the Warrior Diet exactly as prescribed in Ori Hofmekler's book during this time as well. In testing on several of my athletes I found a similar experience with people over 180lbs of lean mass. Those under that weight didn’t have the taper off in energy levels after the first 3-6 month. They could use the diet year round and make small consistent gains in lean mass while on it.
Here is a video of my training in the beginning of 2011 at the end of this phase. You can begin to see the transition in my body over these couple years. Even in this cell phone video you can see all the striations and the gains I had made in lean mass since the 2008 picture above.
Over 2011 and into 2012 I have settled into the Lean Gains methodology by Martin Berkhan and also played around a lot with overlaying Kiefer’s CarbBackloding Methodology. I really congratulate Kiefer on his recent book due to the depth of research and some particularly intriguing topics in the book and how diet relates to training.
One important thing to note is that in recent years as I have built the gym and people have recognized my success in staying lean and strong is that I usually have close to a half dozen of my lifters talked into doing whatever version of a diet I’m using at that time. This provides a good indicator of how most people will respond and not just me.
Ok enough of story time. So what exactly am I doing right now?
8:00pm – no more food.
5:00am – Wake up (Drink lots of Green Tea All Morning)
9:00am - Small protein shake (may be missed)
12:00pm – First Meal light lunch (anabolic pump prior to carb containing lunch)
4:00pm – Pre workout protein Shake (may be missed)
6:45pm – post workout carbs
7:00pm – Post workout Protein shake
7:15-7:45pm – Dinner (anabolic pump prior on non-training days)
7:45-8:00pm – DESERT
9:00am- Protein Shake.
I make sure that I have absolutely no sugars or artificial sweeteners in them. Honestly not sure if you can buy it that way other than in bulk which I do from either Protein Factory or True Nutrition. I also add some fats such as MCT, Fish Oil, or a few nuts with the goal of under 250 calories and under 10g carbs. I really only added this and the preworkout shake in to keep my overall protein intake a little higher.
12:00pm – first Meal light lunch
I keep this meal clean and don’t pig out. I’ve found great success with taking an Anabolic Pump 30min prior then eating 30-50g of complex carbs with the lunch and the rest being meats and veggies. If I’m either cutting or bulking I will drop out the carbs at lunch and just have meats and veggies. Dropping the carbs if I want to cut a couple pounds seems pretty clear but the dropping them if I want to come up a couple pounds probably doesn’t, but will after the post workout section. If you’re not familiar with the Anabolic Pump, it is a nutrition partitioning agent that has similar properties to activating the GLUT4 receptor similar to what exercise does. This creates an environment to shuttle these complex carbs to your muscles over the next several hours. In fact this Insulin Independent Translocation is the whole foundation of the Carbbackloading diet; and I find being able to activate it without excercise to add a while new level of refinement to the methodology.
EDIT: As I have continued to grow muscle mass I have had to add more carbs on some of my OFF days. I do this typically on a day prior to a big session if I am depleted and in need of replenishment prior to heavy session. If it is a going to be a massive carb up meal in the evening with no workout prior I will take 1 anabolic pump 30min prior to meal and then a second anabolic pump 5-10min prior. Again this is for a large single meal carb pre-load day. Also understand I am up to 230lbs of just lean mass right now so these heavy pre-load days may not be approapriate for everyone.
4:00pm – Pre workout Protein Shake
Similar to 9:00am shake and again can be dropped to reduce calories if needed as only done to keep protein intake a little higher.
6:45pm – Post workout shake.
I went for most of last year without the post workout shake but after reading Kiefer’s book I have added this in. I seem to be adding a muscle mass at a slightly faster rate by adding it in. If I go overboard with the carbs as he suggests I have simply NOT been able to dial it in so that either my workouts don’t suffer or I can’t stay below 10%BF. If I want to gain a few pounds however I do employee his methods as prescribed which involves many more carbs between 6:45 and 8pm and also involves NO carbs prior to the workout and thus dropping the lunchtime carbs. For the immediate post workout (or near end of workout) carb a rapid acting carbohydrate source is preferred such as Waxy Maize Starch, Dextrose, or Malt dextrin. You will want to avoid Fructose or HFCS however. Kiefer has some good articles on why in regards to the impact on your post workout nutrition, but there is also just the simple health benefits of not taking in high levels of fructose which is shown to increase the growth of cancerous cells. Also of note is that I am currently taking Modern BCAA about 6:30pm prior to the carbs.
7:15pm – Dinner
Eat whatever the hell I want. It’s really that simple, eat food and don’t worry about counting calories just eating till I’m full. I don’t worry about the types or amounts of carbs making meal planning pretty flexible, which works quite well.
On non-training days I keep it light on the carbs in the 30-80g range. I also have an Anabolic Pump 20-30min Prior to Dinner on off days to create similar cellular environment to the days I train. On training days I may or may not pound down some good desert as well depending on what my body tells me. Although on my off days I often drop by the gym and hit a 10-15min GPP session with a lot of concentric only work (if I do, I drop the Anabolic Pump). This helps with my recovery and it doesn’t overload me. But also per Kiefer’s research, it is clear that the concentric phase is what activates the GLUT 4 and GLUT 12 receptors creating that insulin independent translocation. Basically creating that post workout super compensation period in regards to carbs.
8:00pm – Stop eating
This gives the body an hour to get the my blood sugar down so it doesn’t interfere with my Growth Hormone Release after I go to bed, which for me is 9:30pm. This also makes sure I get the full 16hrs fast before my first meal at noon the next day.
EDIT (2/14) - Per Request I did laid out a sample of what a typical Training and Non-Training Day look like for me in the Comments.
EDIT (2/22) - Great question and detailed response on 9am mini-meal as well as BCAA usage and artificial sweeteners (time to rewrite my 2006 article on sweeteners)
Please note that the Weekend Approach detailed below is only something I do as that is when I can train on weekends. It is NOT essential to this diet and in fact lends itself a little more towards the balance of fat loss than the lean mass gains of the week day training. If your only option for training is in the morning, or this end goal better suits you this is the approach I would take.
On Weekends I still employee the USP Labs Fasted Training protocol with my training finishing by 10:30am. This gives me 14-15hrs of fasting with a workout at the tail end. I then follow the workout with a nearly identical post workout and meal phase as I do during the weekdays. I then have 1-2 meals the rest of the day and keep them lighter. It’s very similar to the weekday training just moving up the post workout and large meal in place of lunch. Then do a light second lunch (or skip) followed by a light dinner.
Overall this diet has worked quite well for me in maintaining my leanness and strength while being able to continue to slowly accumulate muscle mass each year. I don’t think it may be the best approach for people that are new to training or just need to focus on training. I am fully comfortable with the amount of mass I have so slow steady gains while staying lean works perfect. In addition it fits very well with life. Unlike the Warrior Diet I can still do a work lunch instead of having to explain to business people that I don’t eat. Also a big thing to note is that with fasting diets your macro ratio seems to become much less significant. This creates a lot less friction at home as I don’t have “special” eating needs. I can eat whatever my wife cooks (Which is always super good!!!) and going out to eat or over to family and friends to eat you can eat as a “normal” person.
Lots of people stay leaner than me year round and a lot of people are way stronger than me. I will not argue this at all. However of those, how many are able to stay BOTH strong and lean as well as consistently adding muscle mass every year with their methods?
Right now I am fatter than I have been in the last several years as I am bulking up for an upcoming raw meet. However to demonstrate real world results I snapped a crappy cell phone pic this morning before writing this article. This is me at 246lbs when normally I’m walking around in the 230-235. Compare this to the picture at the beginning of this article when I was only 240lbs and you can clearly see a significant gain in muscle mass during the time period of employing these fasting methods. Even with my cell phone you can easily see the veins standing out in my abdominals. Again I’m not the leanest nor the strongest guy out there, but I stand behind these methods for their ability to consistently delivery lean gains in mass while providing performance in the gym and on the platform.
4 Years of experimentation with Fasting Methods
2008 @ 240lbs 2012 @ 246lbs
-28lbs Fat +34lbs Muscle
Squat 806 @242 Squat 1010 (+204) @220 (-22)
Deadlift 695 @242 Deadlift 801(+106) @198 (-44)
Bench 650 @242 Bench 672(+22) @220 (-22)
AUTHOR NOTE: While those numbers listed above are all using powerlifting gear it is a straight across comparison as all were done in essentially the same equipment. And as an UPDATE in that first powerlifting meet noted above I took the #1 ranking in the world @220 at the time and also went on to take the #1 Squat Ranking @ 242 later that year. To provide context to those not familiar with lifting gear my current raw GYM PR's are an 826 Squat, 900 Deadlift, 475 Bench.