Monday, April 19, 2010

Scorch Through Your Fat Loss Plateau

This is an article I wrote for Rusty Moore's blog, The Fitness Black Book.


LayzieBone085 said...

The Cheesecake addition at the end was a perfect ending to a good article.

Chino said...

Martin, great article. I wholeheartedly feel the same way about food, chew it, so at least I've got this department right. I'd rather cook steak and steam some veggies for a meal as opposed to some artificial calorie packed food that comes in plastic packaging. One question about IF, from the reading I've done around your blog it appears you yourself have your feeding window around the evening, I gather you train in the afternoon where you break your fast just before training and have two other meals in the remaining feeding window post workout and just in time for bed. For those like me who do their weights routine early in the morning and do some HIIT/cardio later in the afternoon, do you suggest breaking the fast early for a pre-workout feed with the feeding window finishing at around 1PM or is the BCAA pre-workout will do fine? I'm not sure if there are benefits, it's just with my routine timetable I would have to have my feeding window between 5AM to 1PM. Thank you.

Martin Berkhan said...

Hah yeah, all Rusty's idea though. But a damn good one.

Martin Berkhan said...


I've been meaning to address that question for some time now. The solution is somewhat controversial but one I have been using forever. I'm gonna need to make a blog post about it since I get this question every day. I'll try to fit it in later this week.

Glad you liked the article btw.

Chino said...

Thanks Martin!

PS: Put me down for a guaranteed purchase for when you release your book. :D

Anonymous said...

martin, great article. strange question, but, how do you feel about beans? and, should we avoid dairy, cheese specifically?

Martin Berkhan said...


I have nothing against either. Legumes are satiating sources of carbs and packs a decent protein content. More diet friendly than grains.

As for dairy, I'm definitely for it. I'm a fiend for cottage cheese myself. One big benefit of dairy is calcium and a high calcium intake boosts fat loss by increasing fetal excretion of dietary fat. I wrote about this in my Supplements Guide so check that out if you want to know more.

Cheese is ok, but similar to the case with nuts in the context of a fat loss diet, it's relatively calorie-dense which makes it less than optimal for some people to include as a diet staple.

Seve' said...

As usual, great article Martin.

Right to the topic of fat loss plateau, I have seem to hit it recently. After 5% fat loss and 2.5 lbs gain in lean muscle, although loss of 10 lbs of overall weight, I have hit a plateau in all of fat loss, weight loss and lean muscle gain in last 3~4 weeks.

After some online research, my caloric intake was too low(?) vs 1730 calorie is my BMR where I was consistantly at 1200~1350 calories eversince starting IF.
Although still doing weekly HIT/BBS, I have hit a plateau in weight-increase and reps as well.

I increased my caloric intake to 1600~1800 cal. almost 5 days ago to see if any difference outcome may arise in my next workout.

Any ideas?


Martin Berkhan said...


Congrats on those great results.

People are generally a bit too hasty to say they've encountered a true plateau. They don't lose on a weekly basis and jump to conclusions.

Weight loss isn't always linear. "Stalling", meaning that the scale doesn't move down a pound a week, can be followed by a 2-3 lbs loss in the second week.

Check this re: fake weight plateaus for example:

So give it some time. You're a guy and should be losing pretty good on 1600-1800 kcal unless you're a real light weight.

Anonymous said...


I find that if I am in need of leaning out (or even plenty of times during "maintenance" periods, too) that shakes may not be a useful part of the equation, but that protein powder can be put to creative use making various "pudding-like concoctions.

I'll mix it with a bit of yogurt or perhaps some pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, or even coconut milk occasionally. Obviously the coconut milk can cause the calories add up if you get lax, but when I measure it out, I find that's no problem. And the thicker consistency when you throw together just enough of the right stuff always feels much more satiating than liquid.

Of course I freely concede that even this may not work out for a lot of folks and that, perhaps, I am an anomaly.

Likewise, I find nuts work for me during any type of phase, although I certainly agree that for someone who tends to get hungry easily, a legitimate serving size of nuts won't go very far. And the nut I'd put forth as bucking that tendency to skew the n-6:n-3 is the most calorically dense of the bunch, macadamia nuts. But I'm at a point where I have control over this stuff, so I definitely don't disagree with the notion that nuts are not going to be any ally for many folks. Given that I already avoid using vegetable oils when cooking and such and that I eat wild salmon fairly regularly and supplement with fish oil when not consuming fish, I am not all that concerned about the n-6 content of nuts.

From a fat-loss standpoint, whether they stay in controlled amounts or go is likely neither here nor there, but I feel that there are a lot of beneficial things in there that aren't worth passing up simply because of any shift in the n-6:n-3 ratio of my diet. Of course this still goes back to context, as I would imagine that what I am doing are likely not staples of what those you directed this at are likely doing. Specifically, you made mention of the Western diet, so in that context, the potential downsides of nuts would certainly be magnified.

I should also add that I don't think of nuts as any sort of panacea for health, and fully realize that nutrients can be had via many sources.

But for now, I enjoy them, they don't hamper my results, and I'm able to derive whatever modest benefits are to be had from a health standpoint from eating them.

I suspect that even if you think I am "nuts" for still eating them (not that you would actually care about what I do or don't do, hah, hah), that enjoyment and results ultimately fall right in line with at least part of the general message you're all about.

Rick Rossing

Wilmar said...

haha i love the cheesecake article at the bottom. martin berkhan is a walking juxtaposition of controversial nutritional behavior.

btw great article. it's a great way to introduce your teachings to my skeptical friends.

David said...

Great stuff as always, Martin!

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin

I saw your recent pics posted on twitter. Is it possible you post a pic of you hitting a back latspread or side trizeps pose? Maybe you can post a pic of your legs too?

I follow the blog of your client Andreas Engstrom. Is he a natural bodybuilder? Did everything went as planned on competition day? I thought he looked a little flat, compared to x-days-out pics he posted on his blog.

What your opinion?

Did you ever thought about doing a competition?

Anonymous said...


If I don't consume fish that much, where do you think my fat should come from? Oils and nuts, mixed togheter?

Thanks in advance.

Blue said...

Great article Martin, get’s your points across in a very easy enjoyable way. Since following I.f. for a while and playing around with it I find the biggest thing for me is steady blood sugar levels.
Over the years of small meals I would consistently feel tired (to the point where I was wondering if I had something seriously wrong with me) and also felt like I was having hypoglycemia (dizzy, uneasy, shaky). Especially when drinking to much coffee or getting pissed off (adrenalin). I find with I.F. I have steady energy all of the time. In fact I do best with only 2 big meals a day, 2:00 and 4:00 pm post workout, so this is only a 2.5 hour feeding period with a very large fast. I’m not losing any muscle or strength and feel fucking invincible compared to the last decade of frustration. Is this common for others to have a smaller feeding window?

Bleicke said...

Hi Martin,

looking forward to the book. I'm currently stalled for weight loss. I started off losing 19kg in 4-6 months, then have plateaued for another 3 months at 95-98kg. Now I've started IF to see if that helps. I don't eat breakfast or lunch. Starting at 17:00 I'll usually eat 250-500g of meat/chicken/fish with 500-750g of vegetables cooked in butter. I'll often have 150-200g of cheese before that as a snack, but still after 17:00. My biggest sin is Ben & Jerry's ice cream, which I am almost addicted to. I'll often eat 500g of it up to 3x per week! I can't resist it, especially if I haven't trained that day. Training makes me hungry for real food instead. I do Olympic Weightlifting 1-2x per week.

From a calories standpoint this is still pretty low, even with icecream and cheese. Should this be enough or do I have to cut the icecream strictly? What about the cheese? I really want to break my plateau. I can fast till dinner no problem, but the icecream gets me all the time.

Martin Berkhan said...

Rick Rossing,

The foods I listed in that article were just some examples of what I thought should be omitted from the diet if there was a need to cut calories or make the diet more sustainable.

If all is just fine and dandy despite your nut consumption then it's all good.

As for making puddings with protein powder I'm with you on that one. I enjoy such concoctions myself from time to time. Works best with casein.

Fredrik Gyllensten said...

X2 on Chino's posts; Would love to hear how you tackle morning workouts, and I am guaranteed to buy your book when it comes out :-)

Your site are together with Alan Aragon's my favorite for nutrition information.

Martin Berkhan said...


I'll post some leg pics next time.

Andreaz came in his best condition ever and that's what matters. And yes, he's natural. I would stake that on everything I own.

No, I have no plans of competing myself.

Martin Berkhan said...


' If I don't consume fish that much, where do you think my fat should come from?'

Supplement with fish oil, 3 g/day. Rest of your fat intake could be a mixed bag, but I'd say focus on monounsaturared fats and saturated fat. You get plenty of polyunsaturated fat either way (unless you're consciously trying to avoid them).

But don't overplay this issue too much, so that you're eating foods you don't like just to "optimize" your dietary fat composition.

My main point with nuts re: fat was too highlight that the belief that nuts contain "good fats" is wrong.

Zach said...

Protein vs whole foods - the ongoing difficulty for me is cost. Meat's expensive when you're young and underpaid. Or am I suffering from a lack of culinary creativity?

Martin Berkhan said...


Yeah, I'd say it's very common. People downing meals/snacks every second hour to "stabilise blood sugar" are actually doing the complete opposite.

The notion that you have to eat every so often to maintain energy/keep blood sugar under control is a load of horseshit.

Your blood sugar will very be stable, that is maintained within a very tight range similar to a few hours post-meals, even if you go two days without eating a thing.

Martin Berkhan said...


' I can fast till dinner no problem, but the icecream gets me all the time.'

What do you mean "gets you"? Do you keep it in your house or do you feel an irresistable need to scurry down to the store and buy it? Because that's a huge a difference. Never keep crap in your house that you don't plan on eating.

And 150-200 g of cheese?

Well, if you're losing fat then fine, go at it. If you're not, it should be fairly obvious what you need to do.

Martin Berkhan said...


Check out this article from one of my former clients and a cool guy:

You don't have to get your protein from meat primarily.

Bleicke said...

Hi Martin,

Sometimes I will get a spoon, walk down the stairs, go to my car, drive to the store, buy ice cream and eat it in the parking lot. Other times I will buy it when getting groceries. I generally keep no food at all in my place besides butter, because I have no fridge and everything good spoils fast.

Cutting the cheese shouldn't be so hard. But I don't know how to resist the icecream. I tried strongwill but that never lasts over an hour.

Thx for your help.

Martin Berkhan said...

Then I think it's a case of your diet not being well tailored to your needs. You're probably making the same mistakes most people do and keep a daily calorie deficit that is too high. Lasts for a few days tops and then you binge. And the cycle repeats itself.

tania said...

Yeah, not to mention drinking juice and thinking that you're doing something 'healthy' when you're better off eating fruit.

Bleicke said...

I'm not sure, since my cravings are very specific to ice cream. But I will try over the next few days to eat another small meal in my eating window, so for example eating at 17:00 and then at 21:00 again.

vmax said...

Good reading!

Will there be a post holiday article?

Martin Berkhan said...

Someday, yeah.

Anonymous said...

Martin, great info on your site! I'm trying to bust through a plateau and wanted to know what you thought about this twist on your core IF plan: Fast for 24 hrs on non-training days and for 16 hrs on training days. Train 3 days/week. That means a total fast time of 40 hrs every 2 days (as opposed to regular IF which is 32 hrs every 2 days). What would be the pros and cons of such an approach?

Anonymous said...


You mentioned in article that your clients often consume starchy carbs following a workout. I'm currently carb cycling follow Faigin's Natural Hormone Enhancement (one large carb up meal twice a week). I've heard conflicting advice on when I should carb up relative to my workouts (right now, I'm just lifting 3x a week with some intense cardio at the end). Some people seem to say that you should carb up post workout. Other people seem to claim that carbing up post workout blunts good hormonal stuff generated by the workout. Right now, I work out Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday - and I carb up Saturday and Wednesday nights. Should I switch to carbing up after my workouts?

Chino said...

Martin, my sincere apologies for bugging you but I've got one more question.

I've been on SKD for majority of the past 8-9 months and recently (temporary only) returned to a CKD 5/2 (low cal/carb / refeed) and plan on doing so until a month is over (two weekends left). I should be roughly just below 10% bf. Do you recommend that I go on a "The Full Diet Break" as outlined by Lyle McDonald before stepping into IF? Thank you so much.

Martin Berkhan said...


No real cons, except maybe for compromised diet adherence.

There's a reason I keep the fasts a) regular/frequent (i.e eat at approx same time* of the day every day) and b) relatively short.

* Read

Headline "Intermittent fasting and regular meal patterns: mixing it up"

Anon nr 2,



Yes, it can't hurt if you've been dieting for so long.

DeKay said...

Martin, my question is similar to Chino's. I break my fast at 2:00pm and work out after work in the evenings. But on weekends, I'm often doing some pretty physical work around the yard starting first thing in the morning. What is the best way to approach this from an IF point of view? My best guess was to take 10 g of BCAAs early in the morning before hitting the yard work. Would it be better to do this every three or four hours before breaking the fast? Note that I might also workout on the weekends as well (I'm an every second day guy).

Hopefully you can address this in your upcoming post. And the lineup for your book starts behind me!!!

Martin Berkhan said...

It shall all be revealed soon.

Chino said...

Very much looking forward to it!

Just a note, based on some research related posts you made and to the topic of early morning training, I gather here are the comparisons:

BCAA prior (5-15min) to training (fasted)
- convenient, allows feeding window flexibility
- not counting towards the 8hr feeding window
- sidesteps the protein breakdown
- benefit of increased anabolic response
- increased p70s6k phosphorylation


Protein + moderate low GI carbs (to break the fast) prior to training
- increased metablosim
- pre workout energy

That's all I can gather for now.

Plate said...

Hey Martin,

Great article once again as I salivate on the release of your book. What are your thoughts about taking a diet break for a week or two to optimize hormones by eating maintenance
calories to resume fat loss once again? Is that even necessary? Thanks and I guess you prefer the MK series over the street fighter series, hehe

Anonymous said...

Great article.

I was wondering if you could share a little information on what your current workout routine looks like? I'm somewhat of a newb (about 6 months of experience) but I notice there aren't a lot (if any) of isolation exercises in your or your readers routines. This seems so strange to me, I wouldn't feel the workout was complete if I didn't do my bicep curls or french presses, even if I do compound exercises.

Should I just ditch the isolation stuff and go 100% compound? Really not sure where to go from here, but I do feel the need for a new routine.

Sam said...

Hey Martin, I was in an argument with my mom this morning who is super health conscious. She was trying to get me to eat breakfast because thats what mainstream advice is, and ive never been hungry during breakfast so it is ideal for me to fast during mornings.

I remembered reading what you said that breakfast skippers usually have other bad habits that make them less healthy, not skipping breakfast itself but I could find that post again to look up the studies you mentioned?

Martin Berkhan said...


Re: diet breaks and whether it's necessary or not depends on

a) how long you've been dieting

b) what method of dieting you have been using

c) your body fat percentage

d) your level of motivation

I personally use diet breaks very sparingly with my clients. I've never found any great need for them.

Clients tend to lose fat linearily, relatively speaking, all the way until they reach their desired level of leanness.

My method includes no less than three days of refeeding, which might explain why metabolic slowdown and lack of motivation is less likely to occur - thus negating the need for diet breaks for hormonal and/or psychological reasons.

Martin Berkhan said...


Go check

last two comments

Martin Berkhan said...


Show her this (full free text)

And this

Tim said...

I'm a little confused: just read the "Eat Stop Eat"-book, and it's approach is quite different from what I've gathered from yours. It suggests 1-2 periods a week with 24 hours of no food, whereas you suggest 16 hours of no food, every day? Seems to me like quite different philosophies.

I'm not mistaken about the every day-approach of yours, am I?

I've read most of your articles, but still find it hard to find the most basic information, like should it be every day, can you 'cheat' and get breakfast during vacation weekends, what beverages are o.k, can/should you take supplements even if you're fasting and so forth.

Martin Berkhan said...

The post I'm about to make in just a few hours from now should clear up the confusion

Anonymous said...

Can you drink a protein shake after a work out, while you are fasting? Does this screw it all up or is it good for you?

Martin Berkhan said...

Of course you can. Though I wouldn't call it fasting. Then again, the fasted state is a sliding scale. Post-workout I usually advocate BCAAs for a minimal caloric load/insulinogenic reponse with a maximal protein synthetic response. Read the post about early morning fasted training. That should clear it ut.

Anonymous said...

do u think 2-3 50 gram shakes of 50/50 whey/casein shakes during the fast would hurt or is it better to do completely no calories?

Martin Berkhan said...

That wouldn't be a fast. Read the Leangains guide.

Anonymous said...

the one thing that I have been struggling to find on the site is your recommendation for caloric intake. Should people trying to lose BF stay at BMR via the Harris Benedict formula?


Anonymous said...

I've been wondering the same as koosh - there aren't any guidelines in the posts regarding caloric intake. This would be really helpful info to have if you could post on it. Amazing site, I've been reading it every day!

Fud said...

What kind of physical training should go with this program if goals are fat loss and maintaining or increasing strength? Thanks

Anonymous said...

hey Martin, love your blog. constantly re-read everything everyday trying to make sure I follow your method and advice as close as possible. one quick question, what would the 2nd meal of a training day be composed of? I train fasted so post-workout I understand is carb high(refined or otherwise) and last meal is fibrous carb, just dont know if 2nd meal should be high or low carb

Dane said...

Hey Martin, great article, once again! I recently started IF about 2 weeks ago and I've never felt better! My question has to do with the amount of calories I should be taking in. I'm starting between 2000 and 2500. (I weight 164 lbs) Is that too much? Should I drop it more? I'm just afraid if I start too low that I'll lose my muscle

Anonymous said...


i have been readng your blog on and on and on, the thing is that your site has great in sites, but not for those who are vegetarian or lacto vegetarian, any recipes specification, btw i am 16 years old and i have be reading your post since the last three months. I weigh around 109 lbs (i know its a bit too low) my height is 163cms and my bf is 11% i have been following your plans and ideas in a lacto vegetarian fashion since the last two-three months, i have seen results great ones. but it would be better is u suggested something for us LACTO-vegetarians :)

Alex said...

Martin, on rest days, how far below maintenance calorie consumption do you suggest for fat loss? and body recomp?

jmac said...

Martin, the site is awesome and I use it quite a bit. I am stuck, however, in a plateau that I cannot seem to come out of. I am not quite sure what I am doing/doing wrong. I'm 6'0" and about 19-22% BF at 219LBS. I following leangains pretty much to a T all week long. However, I seem to be stuck at this weight and it has been nearly 3 months or more. I've changed my calorie intake to500 below maintenance and I track my food. Any links/advice you or anyone else can provide would be greatly appreciated (and yes I have read "scorch through your weighloss plateu") Thank you

Michiel said...

Won't a fasted state high intensity cardio session whilst taking BCAA's or EAA's be best to lose fat fast?

Anonymous said...

In regards to things that may be causing a fat loss plateau, what would you recommend for vegans since nuts and dried fruits are a big staples?

Puneet said...

Hi Martin. I am totally hooked up with IF, thanks to your blog and your client's pics. I am a vegan, and hence, its really hard for me to get in enough protein in my diet. Even if i gorge on legumes and dairy, i would still fall short, and the carb count would go insanely up. Plz help. I do supplement with 40 grams of casein, but not sure if i am doing enough..Any suggestions plz?

Peter Abel said...

Hey Martin,

very big fan of you and your blog. You got a recipe for that awesome cheesecake?


Anonymous said...

"It gets real easy to say "I'll just go tomorrow" after 1-2 weeks off. You have all sorts of great reasons too."

can you elaborate?

Antonio Spellman said...

I consume dried nuts and fruit and I saw progress during consumption. I do 24 hour fasts twice a week. I've plateaued. I am down to the last two muscles in the abs and a little in the legs but veins in the lower abs are visible but still not "there". I am considering adding caffeine and yohimbine hcl on those days as well as added a little more strength training (I box so it will be for power 3 sets 6-8 reps). Any suggestions in changes?

MaryC said...

I can't wait to buy your book! I want to learn more about this program and weight loss. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I currently weigh 182 pounds currently sixty pounds less than last year!. I did this through traditional six meals a day, and pretty much living a more fit lifestyle. I do not contain a sick pack, and still have stubborn fat around my waistline, should I continue the traditional way,a and see where it takes me, or switch to this methid?.
I know you must get a lot of these, but if you can answer I would be delighted

gman said...

What about those greens powder drink during the fasting stage? I have one called Green's Lightning that contains 18 cals with 3 grams of carbs. Would this still be too much during the fasting stage or is 18 cals negligible?

My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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