Dear John,

I am a former cross-country runner and swimmer looking to go from endurance athlete to power athlete. After hanging up the cross-country spikes, I wanted to do what every former male runner wants to do, get big muscles. Without giving you my life story, I experimented with some 5×5 lifting protocols at first and got some decent results. I later discovered CrossFit and leaned out after putting a too much weight from the 5×5 and discovered CrossFit Football. I am 6’2”, 190-195 pounds at 10% body fat. My question is in regards to intermittent fasting and CrossFit Football. Could I go on an IF protocol, 16 fast/ 8 feeding window like the one from Lean Gains, build strength, muscle and power while on your programming? My main goals are strength and size related: 315 lbs bench, 400 lbs below parallel squat, 500 lbs deadlift and 275 lbs power clean. There are others but I’m focusing on those four right now. Thank you again for giving my training a home.


Gregory Craft

lean gains and CFFB #1


Lets start by examining the protocol prescribed on Lean Gains and then compare it to CrossFit Football and see if we get you pointed in the right directions

The Lean Gains protocol promotes intermittent fasting and a workout program Martin Berkhan has found works best for him and many lean gainers around the globe.

Just so we are on the same page, what is intermittent fasting? IF is a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting and non-fasting. IF has been around for many years with the earliest mentioning in 1943 in a medical journal. It has been shown to not only aid in losing body fat but reversing various metabolic diseases.

Martin states, “My general position on the fasted phase is that it should last through the night and during the morning hours. Ideally, the fast should then be broken at noon or shortly thereafter, if you rise at 6-7 am like most people. Afternoons and evenings are usually spent in the fed state.”

The Lean Gains approach favors a 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour feed. The majority of the training is done during the fasted state and accompanied by 10-20 grams of branch chain amino acids. So technically, the training is not completely fasted, and Martin states on his site, “…training completely fasted – that would be detrimental. The pre-workout protein intake, with its stimulatory effect on protein synthesis and metabolism, is a crucial compromise to optimize results.”

“For fasted training, BCAA or essential amino acid mixture is highly recommended.”

Here are Martin’s thoughts on including HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) into your workout regiment.

“Lifting at a suboptimal capacity starts a downward spiral in my experience. If your nervous system cannot keep up with what your muscles can lift, muscle loss happens as a consequence of never being able to apply adequate stress/perform optimally.“

“If you’re adding 2-3 sessions of HIIT to your 3 sessions of weights, it is almost comparable to adding 2-3 days of weights. Keyword is ‘almost’; I’m obviously not drawing direct comparisons. That’s all fine and dandy if you think working out 5-6 days/week is a good idea on a diet. But I don’t think anyone – no matter what level of experience – needs more than 3 days a week in the gym when cutting…In conclusion, if conditioning is not terribly important for you, if your goal is really about getting shredded while keeping your muscle, I highly suggest limiting moderate to high intensity cardio on a diet – or ditch it completely. Save it for some other time when your recovery is good and not limited by your diet.”

What program does Lean Gains promote?

3 days a week of banging heavy weights; compound movements like bench, squat, deadlifts and weighted pull-ups done in a reverse pyramid rep scheme…also known as drop sets. Work up to something heavy for a few sets, pull weight and do more sets, pull more weight for a few sets and head home to stuff your hungry face.

What does CrossFit Football recommend?

Lift heavy weights 4 days a week; focusing primarily on heavy compound movements like the squat, bench, press, deadlift, vertical pulls and Olympic movements. After we lift weights we follow this up with some form of sprinting, conditioning or high intensity interval usually lasting between 7-12 minutes, with the occasional 15-minute workout.

The goal of CrossFit Football is not to help you cut up or get ready for a body building show.

Our goal is stated in the tag line, “Forging Powerful Athletes”.

Contrary to recent questions being asked on CrossFit Football Dot Com, the program puts little value on what you look like. We put a big premium on being big, strong, fast and capacity.

*However, if by an off chance you end up looking like you are 6-8 weeks out from a body building show while doing the CFFB program, you will not be chastised.

We recommend you eat food for a few reasons. The high volume of training we prescribe is hard on the body and takes fuel. Doing CFFB in a fasted state is like leaving money as the ingesting of protein and carbs before and after a workout has a big effect on testosterone. The increased binding of testosterone to the androgen receptors in the muscle results in what is called an up regulation, meaning there is an increased number of receptors that are responsive to the circulating testosterone. Testosterone being the major hormone signal for increased protein synthesis in the muscles. Adding 25-50 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbohydrates before and within 10 minutes of finishing exercise will increase the circulating insulin, which will result in greater uptake of amino acids in the muscles.

LG’s goal is for you to carry a lot of muscle and maintain low body fat. Martin, and the clients for the most part, are extremely lean and post some impressive numbers in the lifts.

The goal for CrossFit Footballers is big, strong, fast with large capacity; plus the ability to suffer and make others suffer. We have a very real performance goal with aesthetics playing a very small part in our programming. However, I believe form follows function and when you are functioning your best your form will looks it’s best for what you need it to do.

Kansas City Chiefs v Chicago Bears

If your goal is to gain weight and strength you are going to need to eat an excessive amount of calories. I believe you have a much better chance of completing this task if you spread it over 16 hours instead of just 8 hours.

From personal experience, I believe the magic in LG is the caloric restriction and training in a fasted state while taking BCAAs to prevent muscle loss. For the last 50 years body builders have been using low intensity cardio done in a fasted state to lose body fat while making sure to keep protein high so as to not loss muscle while in caloric restriction. By creating an 8-hour feed window it will be very difficult to match calories with a 16 hour feed window. Compound this with smart training and limited volume done in the fasted state and you can see where the lean gains name comes from. Over time, heavy compound movements have shown to be the most effective stimulus for building muscles and increasing testosterone and growth hormone. Ditch the cardio and the HIIT training and you have a good recipe for staying strong and maintaining a low percentage of body fat.

Just to reiterate an earlier quote you might have glossed over from the LG site, “In conclusion, if conditioning is not terribly important for you, if your goal is really about getting shredded while keeping your muscle, I highly suggest limiting moderate to high intensity cardio on a diet – or ditch it completely. Save it for some other time when your recovery is good and not limited by your diet.”

Martin states training in a fasted state will not allow someone to recover from a high volume,high intensity style of training. He recommends these styles of training are more appropriate when not limited to an 8 hour feeding window.

But this goes back to the age-old question asked for years on CFFB and TTMJ…what are you training for?

Lately, there have been more than a few questions posted on the site looking for help cutting up for summer or leaning out. If your goal is to single digit body fat check out Lean Gains; 16 hour fast, 8 hour feed and 3 days a week of heavy compound movements. And the site has more free information on training and nutrition than can be digested in a single sitting.

CFFB recommends you following a program. It doesn’t have to be our program, just make sure you follow a program. Avoid the temptation to piece various programs together in hopes of crafting a “Secret Squirrel Super Hybrid” training program…it rarely works.

If your goal is to become a power athlete, then eat and follow CrossFit Football as it has been written.

If you are following the site read the nutrition portion on which foods to consume or the TTMJ post titled, “Just Tell Me What To Eat” and then don’t worry about calories.

At the end of the day, all that matters is how you perform on game day.