Get a life, get the body you want.
Becoming lean and muscular does not have to be a full time job. We realise that nobody is perfect. Most people don’t have the time to carry six meals of rice and chicken breast about in tupperware all day, or to train twice per day. Follow the Propane commandments and enjoy the most efficient ways to reach your goal while still having a life and never depriving yourself.
Stepping foot in a gym can be very daunting. If you’re a guy, you’re confronted by burly men throwing heavy dumbbells about, overshadowing your every move. As a woman you’re faced with the lycra wearing, cardio obsessed treadmill athletes, eyeing up how much you weigh and how much cellulite you may or may not have. Everyone feels like they’re being silently judged. The gym is full of competition and hierarchy, and everyone wants to be the best, nobody wants to feel embarrassed or intimidated.
The Propane Protocol gives direction and drive to those of you that feel lost and intimidated, and allows you to achieve your goals without hours and hours of training. It doesn’t involve jumping between all 5 cable stations and 7 pieces of cardio equipment. Why? Because you don’t need them. Simple methods can lead to radical results. The best way to lose fat or add muscle is through weight training, only when your results slow should you look to add cardio or more advanced techniques.
If you’re skeptical, all that we ask is that you follow this program for 10 weeks. You will be so impressed by the results that you won’t turn back. Get ready for your Propane fuelled rebirth.
The goal of this system is to achieve the maximum results in terms of body composition in the shortest time, with the least daily inconvenience.
Here are our specific guidelines for two goals: gaining lean muscle with minimal fat, and losing fat while preserving muscle mass.
Summary - TL:DR
- Eat 2 large meals per day. Meal 1 is protein and fat. Meal 2 is carbs and protein.
- Reduce or drop carbs completely on rest days.
- Train 3x per week using the A/B split:
Chest – Heavy compound movement, ramped. Assistance work for volume.
Back - Heavy compound movement, ramped. Assistance work for volume.
Biceps – Isolation movement, straight sets.
Calves - Isolation movement, straight sets.
Quads - Heavy compound movement, ramped.
Hams - Heavy compound movement, ramped.
Shoulders - Heavy compound movement, ramped.
Triceps - Heavy compound movement, ramped.
Abs - Isolation movement, straight sets.
How to Use This Guide
1) Pick a goal: gain muscle or lose fat. Do not try to do both. Calculate your macronutrient requirements for the goal.
2) Training is the same whichever goal you are pursuing muscle gain and fat loss. The diet will not work without the training, and visa versa. Don’t mess with the program!
3) Keep track of your results via photos, not scale weight or the mirror. Try to keep lighting the same. Quantifying your journey will always help.
4) Acquire aesthetics.
- Avoid breakfast!
- Drink black coffee or green tea upon waking and stay active during the fasted state: i.e. walking, buying groceries, housework.
- Eat only protein, and fat during the day before training. You can include green vegetables here, we’d suggest however that results will be better with extremely low carbs in the portion of the day.
- Train between 4pm-6pm.
- Post-workout, eat a substantial whole food meal with plenty of carbs and protein.
The diet consists of two phases: before training and after training. You can eat two (or more) big meals per day: one predominantly protein and fat meal in the early afternoon, and one carb-heavy meal with protein in the evening.
Eat protein and fat, consume 20-30% of your total calories for the day. Make this portion of the day healthy, take a multivitamins and some fish oil
Train between 4pm-6pm.
Consume the remaining 70-80% of your total calories for the day from carbs and protein.
This meal should be big and satisfying. Include some indulgent treats and food you really enjoy. Keep fat as low as possible, but carbs can be high. Examples below.
1 – Cycle periods of underfeeding and overfeeding.
Ideally, the early part of your day should be spent in either a fasted or under-fed state with a caloric spikes after training. See here for more info.
2 – Choose foods based on endocrinology, not dogma.
Morning into afternoon we want to use body fat for fuel. Therefore insulin should be kept low by avoiding carbohydrate and ingesting protein and fat only. So good choices are meats, fish, some dairy, vegetables, oils. After and during training we want to create an anabolic state by amplifying serum insulin- here a mars bar would do more good than bad, it would create a large insulin rush and actually serve our purpose better than say brown bread or oats.
3 – Meal frequency doesn’t matter.
Assuming you respect the total intake for the day, you can eat that in as many or as few meals as you see fit. This said, we would still recommend skewing your intake of both calories and carbs to the end of the day, after a training session.
4 – Use a calorie tracker 2-3 days per week.
It shouldn’t become an obsession but if you want to make improvements its important to be able to quantify your energy intake to some degree, this allows for outcome based decision making and helps to inform you in refining the process. http://www.mynetdiary.com is a good option.
5 – Follow the “you diet” by using these simple rules.
- Ensure sufficient protein consumption: 1-2g per pound of bodyweight, try to get the bulk of this from red and white meat, fish, eggs and dairy, some protein supplements are OK too, but try to preference eating calories rather than drink them.
- Ensure sufficient intake of essential fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (Omega 3s and 6s) are called such because we cannot synthesise them from other fats. Therefore we should seek to get enough fo each of these from foods we consume, you can get specific and worry about ratios but the simplest way to do it is supplement with omega 3 oil – omega 6 is more prevelant in food. Liquid fish oil is the best option, consume 2 tbsp per day. With this, try to consume 1-2 tbsp of coconut oil (good to cook with), some egg yolks and some red meat most days.
- Eat what you want, when its applicable. As long as you respect rule 1-3, and load most of your calories around training you can pretty much eat what you want. Optimally pre-workout would be protein and fat only and post-workout would be carbs with protein and minimal fat.
Timeline: A Typical Training Day
9am: Wake up, 1 cup black coffee.
9.15am: 30 minute brisk walk.
3pm: Eat a “neutral” meal. Your training days are high carb and rest days are high fat, to keep your schedule flexible make this meal mainly protein with a small amount (20-30g) of fat. This way, each day can either become a training day or a rest day, the evening meal is the only element that changes. Aim for 20% of total calories.
4.30pm – Coffee and 10-30g whey isolate.
5pm - Train (consume 20g BCAA sip throughout the session, starting when you arrive at the gym).
7.00pm – Eat 50%-80% daily calories from carbs and protein.
9pm – Eat the remaining 0-30% calories from carbs and protein.
Timeline: A Typical Rest Day
9am: Wake up, 1 cup black coffee
9.15am: 30 minute brisk walk
3pm: Eat a “neutral” meal. Aim for 30% of total calories, the lower the better, between 20-30g fat. One option for a rest day, to still allow a very large feeding in the evening is to make this caloric intake very low (enough to stifle hunger and break the fast). A good option would the PropaneLatte
7pm: Remaining 70% of calories. If your goal is fat-loss make this meal low carb (<50g), if your goal is muscle gain you can include some carbs here but ensure that the meal contains more calories from fat than carbs, remember 1g fat = 9 kcal, 1g carbs = 4 kcal. If you struggle with the lower calories on rest days, we suggest starting this meal with a large bowl of soup and a large portion of meat. Protein fluff would also be a good option here. And remember just because you’re carbs are low, doesn’t mean you have to eat boring meals, there are some very tasty low-carb options .
6 - Add one or two 24-hour fasts per week.
- Drink plenty of water, coffee and green tea
- If you want to train during a fast, drink 20g BCAA during training only, or have 5-10g of Leucine before and during training.
- Apart from this, no calories are to be ingested for 24 hours.
This will keep fat loss in check, increase growth hormone levels and improve nutrient partitioning during the rest of the week. More details can be seen here.
The easiest way to perform a 24 hour fast is simply skip your neutral meal at 3pm and push back your evening feed until the 24 hour mark. By doing on a rest day (recommended), you’ve cut back your daily intake by 30% and should still feel satisfied with a large evening meal. Ideal for those with 9-5 jobs, stem the hunger with black coffee and green tea, eat when you get home.
To maintain full control over your diet, we always recommend cooking your own meals.
Additionally, read this, on how to always eat to satisfaction.
Examples of meals before training:
- Chicken and avocado salad.
- Cheese and egg omelette with spinach and mushrooms.
- Spiced minced beef with sauce/greek yoghurt.
Examples of meals after training:
- Rice and chicken/fish.
- Sweet potato
- Sugary cereal with skimmed milk and a scoop of whey.
We’re not big on supplements, but there are a handful that would slightly accelerate results on this protocol:
1) – Whey isolate: 20g Pre-training. (You could also include 10g before meals.)
2) Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil – 1 tablespoon pre-training.
4) Caffeine: Can be in the form of coffee, green tea extract or caffeine pills. Up to 200mg depending on tolerance, taken pre-workout and before fasted cardio.
5) Creatine: 5g with each meal and 5g pre-training
6) BCAA: 20g sipped intra-workout. You could include an additional serving of 30 minutes before your evening meal.
The training element of the program will remain consistent whether you’re a girl looking to fit into a dress for a party or a guy looking to add muscle for the rugby pitch. The variable that changes is diet.
You must fully trust in this one fundamental principle to gain success with this program: improve your performance. That’s it. If you want to get leaner, get stronger and eat less. If you want to get bigger, get stronger and eat more. If you try to ‘sculpt’, ”tone’ or train without this single-minded goal, then our bet is that you won’t make progress.
Exercises are split up into an ‘A’ session, and a ‘B’ session. Alternate the sessions so that you are training three times per week. The ‘ramps’ are the engine of the program, and what drives progress. Details below.
Monday: Session A1
Wednesday: Session B
Friday: Session A2
Monday: Session B
Incline Barbell bench – Ramp
Deadlift – Ramp
Incline Dumbell Bench – 3 sets of 8-12
Lat pulldown – 3 sets of 8-12
Incline DB curl – 2 sets of 8-12
Standing calf raise – 2 sets of 15-20
Front squat – Ramp
Romanian deadlift – Ramp
Seated Press – Ramp
Close-grip bench – Ramp
Reverse crunches – 4 sets of 8-12
Flat Barbell bench – Ramp
Pendlay row – Ramp
Incline Dumbell bench – 3 sets of 8-12
Seated cable row – 3 sets of 8-12
Preacher curl – 2 sets of 8-12
Leg press calf raise – 2 sets of 12-15
(Repeat, sticking to the same exercise selection every A session and every B session, or vary them like the examples above.)
Loading and Progression: ‘Ramping’
The first step, when determining the weight to use, is to leave your ego at the door; you won’t get any stronger by lifting weights that you can’t handle, the only thing you’ll gain is an injury. The exercises in your program involve a combination of barbells and dumbbells, and if you have no experience with training it will be difficult to determine what weight to use when jumping between different exercises, so here are the rules to follow:
Deadlift: Say your 1 rep max is 100kg:
Empty bar x 5 reps
+ 20kg: 40kg x 5 reps
+ 15kg: 55kg x 5 reps
+ 10kg: 65kg x 3-5 reps
+ 10kg: 75kg x 3-5 reps
+ 5kg: 80kg x 3-5 reps*
+ 5kg: 85kg x 3-5 reps*
Same weight: 85kg x 3-5 reps*
*IF performance on the prior set felt powerful do another set. If you had to grind up the weight, stay at that weight.
The nature of the loading is that it CHANGES on the day, depending on how you feel, how much rest you have had, and how the performance is. If you feel and perform great on a given day, add more sets. Do more work when your work capacity is high, and do less when it’s low. That doesn’t mean you can slack when you don’t feel like training hard, but you have to listen to your body and understand when you can push yourself and when you can’t.
You should be looking to add weight to the bar whenever you can, don’t repeat what you did last week and assume you’ll be getting bigger, stronger or leaner – that comes with progression. You may not be able to perform better than your previous session every time, but by performing the best you can every time you’re in the gym the trend pattern should be one of increased load. That is, after a few weeks of the program you should definitely be using more weight than you were to begin with. The only caveat to this is if you’re eating to lose fat, your progress may be slower.
Barbell exercises: Start with the bar and add 5-20kg each side for every set, think front loading – obviously if the bar is easy to handle you can add 20kg straight away then reduce the increments as the sets progress. The take-home point is this: start with the bar. Use this tip to enhance the results from your ramped movements.
Dumbbells: Start with 10kg dumbbells and move up in increments of 2-5kg, no more. If 10kg is too heavy, use 5kg.
Frequently Asked Questions
Won’t weight training make me bulky?
This is a very common misconception and I’m sure that for some of you, nothing we say can change your mind – however, just remember, if gaining muscle and bulk was as easy as lifting weights a few times a week, personal trainers would be out of job and it wouldn’t take years of dedication and work to look like Mr. Olympia. Think of weight training as the spark to the fire, its how you fuel it that determines what happens. In other words, weight training won’t build size unless you’re eating more calories than you burn, and supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to create new muscle and to repair itself. In fact, while eating a calorie deficit, weight training can be very efficient at burning fat and skewing nutrient partitioning in favour of retaining or building muscle.
So many people reject weight training or high protein diets, they’re set in their ways and shut-off to theories that contradict their own. Sure enough, those people never look or perform the way they want to. Sometimes it is change that forces adaption and carves a path out of a rut, maybe achieving your physique goals involves things that go against what you believe, a shift in your perception – a radical transformation.
Won’t my muscle turn to fat if I stop training?
No. If you stop training and eating properly then you may gain fat and you may lose muscle, but there’s no magical process that will convert your muscle tissue into fat tissue. A beer belly doesn’t happen because your pecs suddenly turn into fat and migrate to your waist the day you stop going to the gym.
Some of these exercises look dangerous
Yes, there is potential for injury, but with greater risk comes greater reward. If you drive a car, you are taking a risk, but you do it anyway because you want to travel efficiently to your destination. Similarly, weight training is an efficient way of transforming your physique, and there is no substitute for it. Remember that weight training has a low impact on your joints, and will improve your bone density, which is essential for your long term health.
I’m embarrassed to do these exercises in my gym!
Don’t be embarrassed, all that matters is your progress. You might start with relatively light weights, but within a few weeks people will be asking you how you got so strong and look so good. If you’re eating for mass, people might accuse you of steroids after a few months.Send them to PropaneFitness!
How should I eat?
This depends on your goal. See above and adjust according to your goal.
I’m really sore after my sessions.
You will adapt very fast to the soreness. After a few weeks, you won’t feel sore anymore. If you have severe soreness, you might not be eating enough or getting enough rest. Log your food for a few days, you might be surprised at how little you are eating. Do some soft tissue work, like foam rolling, before you train (or whenever it’s convenient to do it).
Should I be stretching/can I do yoga/swimming while doing this program?
Yes, all of those are great things to maintain your joint health and mobility. In fact, we encourage you to try myofascial release and soft tissue work to prevent injury and improve performance.
Is this suitable for women?
Absolutely! It will not bulk you up, and combined with a good diet it is a very powerful fat loss program. Your stomach, legs and bum will tighten up and become toned, and your chest will become firmer. You will get the shape you want without having to spend hours on a treadmill, and you will get stronger.
Is the program for muscle building or fat loss?
Both! The Propane Program will allow you to gain muscle and lose fat, but your diet will dictate your results. Remember this quote?
“The training element of the program will remain consistent whether you’re a girl looking to fit into a dress for a party or a guy looking to add muscle for the rugby pitch. The variable that changes is diet.”
The heavy compound movements will force you to expend a lot of calories each time you’re in the gym because of the choices of exercises, which is an added bonus for fat loss and may help to keep you lean during a period of muscle building.
The above recommendations are what we consider optimal based on our experience with clients and ourselves. The protocol has been influenced by various coaches and nutritionists, notably John Kiefer, Martin Berkhan, Kurtis Frank, JC Deen and Christian Thibaudeau.