Eat right and exercise, and your muscles will grow. This is the advice given by literally thousands of dietitians, nutritionists, personal trainers, and other “experts” when addressing the topic of bodybuilding success.
Of course, proper nutrition and training with weights have always been, and will always be, the cornerstones of an effective muscle-building program. However, what on earth does “eat right” mean? Some interpret it as “three squares” a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – the standard meat and potatoes fare.
Others interpret it as consuming a diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean meats. Others call “eating right” avoiding junk food/fast food and consuming a very low-fat diet. There are probably hundreds of ways to interpret what “eat right” means – it’s an ambiguous “prescription” to say the least. But, up until a few months ago, when we began this series of feature articles, very few people would have defined “eating right” as making dramatic changes in your diet every two weeks – cycling calories up and down. Indeed, bodybuilding nutrition is not as simple as one might think; on the other hand, it doesn’t have to be extraordinarily complex.
In Parts I, II, and III of this article series, we revealed fascinating information about how cycling your calorie intake may cause a dramatic increase in anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, insulin, and IGF-1, and result in a substantial increase in muscle mass. These theories were pioneered by a Swedish research scientist named Torbjorn Akerfeldt. His theories are beginning to revolutionize bodybuilding nutrition, completely redefining what “eat right” means.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to review all three prior articles in this series, I would strongly encourage you to do so. To receive a copy of them, you can call our Customer Care Department at 1-800-297-9776, or you can find them on our Muscle Media home page. The address is http://www.musclemedia.com.
In this article, Torbjorn takes the concept of cycling nutrient intake a step further by showing us how fluctuating macronutrient intake (protein, carbs, and fat) every few days may further enhance the positive effects of his Anabolic Burst Cycling System. Torbjorn calls these macronutrient fluctuations “sub-cycles” or “micro-cycles.” But, before we get into that, let me fill you in on my progress using the Anabolic Burst Cycling theories.
As I revealed in the last issue of Muscle Media, I have been very pleased with the progress I’ve made following Torbjorn’s nutrition, exercise, and supplementation tips. I revealed that during my first complete cycle (two weeks of bulking and two weeks of dieting), I gained three pounds of muscle while losing fat at the same time. This is a substantial improvement for me, considering I’ve been training for well over a decade. Now, since I wrote that first article, I’ve completed another bulking cycle and gained an additional six pounds of lean mass (some of the weight you gain on the bulking phase is cell volume – glycogen, creatine, water, etc., and some is actual skeletal muscle tissue – actin and myosin). The strength I gained on my second bulking cycle and the pumps I was getting when I worked out were awesome! I definitely felt like I was “on something.” (One of the great things about this system is that you’re constantly changing your diet, exercise, and supplementation program. It doesn’t get boring – it’s very stimulating, which is a big plus.)
Anyway, after completing two bulking phases with a two-week cutting phase in between, I was very pleased with the results. However, after my last bulking phase, I decided to go on a four-week cutting cycle. You see, just like thousands of Muscle Media readers, I’m trying to get in my top, top condition to complete my self-improvement contest. Just like many of you, I am “peaking” for “after photos,” and after gaining some good muscle mass over the past couple months, I wanted to take my bodyfat down to around six percent – to really bring out the definition and muscularity.
I’m in my third week of dieting – after another week or two, I think I’ll be in the best condition I’ve been in in a long, long time (if not ever). After I “peak,” I plan to go back on another bulking cycle, then two more weeks of cutting, and so on. Since I am training without the assistance of bodybuilding drugs, this will be a great way for me to increase my muscle size and strength without simply bulking up and getting fat.
The feedback I’ve received from others who are trying the Anabolic Burst Cycling System has, overall, been very positive. I’ve heard from guys who have gained as much as 10 or 15 lbs of muscle after a few cycles – some of these bodybuilders hadn’t made significant gains in years. However, I’ve heard from a few people who haven’t been able to get the system to work for them. Judging by the feedback, here’s my take on the situation: some of the lifters who fail on this system have a very hard time either overconsuming calories (which is required during the two-week bulking phase) or sticking with a strict diet (which is required during the two-week cutting phase). Some people find it uncomfortable to overeat and impossible to diet. Unfortunately, trying to force your body to change – to gain muscle and lose fat – is not easy. If it were, a lot more people would be walking around with great bodies! The truth is, it’s a struggle. It is hard to make sure you consume six nutritious, high-calorie meals a day during the bulking phase, and it is difficult to restrict your calories significantly during the dieting phase, not to mention the workouts – in order to force your body to change, to gain muscle and lose fat, you have to train hard!
So, one of the toughest obstacles which people who are trying to make gains with this system face is simply finding the discipline to stick with the program. In fact, that is the problem which is most frequently encountered with this and probably every other bodybuilding system – it takes discipline, drive, and determination.
Another thing I’ve noticed is the system does not seem to work very well for people who are just coming off a steroid cycle. Remember, during the two-week anabolic/bulking phase, we are relying on a very unique metabolic trick – going from a maintenance- or low-calorie diet to one that contains a substantial energy surplus (extra calories) causes a significant increase in anabolic hormones which help stimulate the growth of new muscle tissue. Because people who use steroids almost always upset the body’s natural hormone balance, or “axis” as experts call it, I don’t think the high-calorie phase causes a substantial increase in anabolic hormones; thus, the additional calories are not “preferentially shuttled” to the lean-tissue compartment of the body (muscle). Therefore, bodybuilders coming off a steroid cycle who attempt the Anabolic Burst Cycling Program are probably going to gain more fat than muscle on the anabolic/overfeeding phase.
Generally, after six months of being steroid free, the body’s natural hormone production is back up and running. This would be a good time to try the ABCDE System, which I believe is an effective way to gain a significant amount of muscle mass without using illegal drugs.
Here’s another observation I’ve made after reviewing feedback from dozens and dozens of bodybuilders who have tried the Anabolic Burst Cycling System: there may be a positive effect from using androstenedione during the bulking phase of the program. Perhaps this is because it provides additional raw materials for the synthesis of testosterone, which is elevated in the anabolic phase of the diet.
I’ve also noticed that bodybuilders who are using “fat burners” like caffeine and ephedrine (or a formulation with their herbal equivalents) during the dieting phase, prior to early a.m. exercise after an overnight fast, are losing all of the bodyfat they gained during the bulking phase and sometimes even more. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of doing aerobic exercise first thing in the morning during the dieting phase, in an effort to burn what fat you gain during the bulking phase.
The Next Step…
All right, let’s move on to new business. A couple times, in previous articles, Torbjorn Akerfeldt has mentioned that the “micro-cycling” of macronutrients, specifically protein, may offer another way to “trick the body” into gaining new muscle size. To be honest, before Torbjorn introduced this theory, I had never heard, nor even thought, of cycling protein, but after he explained this theory to me and showed me the scientific rationale behind it, I’m beginning to believe there might be something to this new concept as well. In a recent interview with Torbjorn, I asked him about this theory. Here’s how it went…
Bill Phillips: Let’s talk about something you mentioned in our last interview – cycling protein intake. How does this work, and why would someone want to do this? I was under the impression that you had to consume a high-protein diet every day to gain muscle. It sounds like a wild theory to be honest.
Torbjorn Akerfeldt: I realize that by introducing the concept of protein cycling, I might cause some of your readers to say, “That Swedish guy with the unpronounceable name has finally gone nuts…” I say this because I’ve found that bodybuilders hold three things sacred: heavy squats, steroids – or creatine for drug-free bodybuilders – and a high protein intake. As long as you don’t touch these dogmas, many bodybuilders will listen and be prepared to do some of the most outrageous, unscientific, and often dangerous things, in an effort to become bigger and stronger. However, I have to challenge one of these fundamentals: namely, the high protein intake. I know some of your readers, after reviewing even this much of the text, will flip to the next article. I warn them that this is a big mistake. By “hearing me out,” I promise they’ll learn something new about protein metabolism and muscle growth that may change the way they view protein intake forever, allowing them to reach a new standard of muscle growth and fat loss.
BP: Should we cycle protein like calories – going two weeks on a high-protein diet and two weeks on a low-protein diet?
TA: No. I need to emphasize that my theory involves reducing protein intake only for a few days at a time. In order to understand why this is important – why it could allow bodybuilders to get better results from their workouts – I need to explain some of the basics about protein and its biochemistry, so please bear with me. I believe that if more bodybuilders understood the contemporary science behind the metabolic processes of muscle growth and fat loss, they would be able to spot a flawed theory before they had put a lot of their blood, sweat, and tears – not to mention money – into it. As I’ve explained in my previous interviews, it is important to understand that we all react and adapt to dietary changes; our bodies are constantly trying to outsmart us, you might say. I see this not only in the gym but also when reviewing statistics from scientific studies on nutrition. The body is amazing.
BP: What is it about protein metabolism that I, and other bodybuilders, really need to know?
TA: Let me start with the basics – as you know, protein is made up of “building blocks” called amino acids, which basically consist of one, two, or three nitrogen atoms bound together with a carbon skeleton. Amino acids can be attached to each other by peptide bonds, thus forming long chains of interconnected amino acids. These chains or peptides are named after the number of amino acids they contain; hence, they are called dipeptides, tripeptides, etc. If there are more than 10 amino acids present, the term polypeptide is used, and if the number exceeds 50, they are normally referred to simply as “proteins.” These proteins have different properties, depending on the sequence of the amino acids which form them. Actually, more than 100 amino acids exist in nature, but only 20 of them can be used to build proteins in the human body.
Examples of amino acids which can’t be part of the protein structure include gamma-aminobutyric acid [GABA] and L-dopa, both of which are known to be used and misused by bodybuilders. The body also has the ability to change the structure of certain amino acids that have already been incorporated into proteins, thus forming new amino acids such as hydroxyproline [which exists in connective tissue] and 3-methylhistidine [which exists in muscle].
Furthermore, the body can make non-protein amino acids, such as ornithine, and the nonessential, or dispensable, amino acids, which are necessary to synthesize proteins. The reason the body has developed this dynamic ability to create new amino acids is to fulfill the precise needs of the body despite protein intakes that vary widely in quality and quantity. However, the body cannot manufacture all amino acids – certain ones just cannot be synthesized. These are called essential, or indispensable, amino acids. They must consequently be provided in the foods you eat.
BP: I follow you – we covered these things in my Sports Supplement Review, and I agree this basic science of protein should be understood by bodybuilders. What do you think is important to know about protein metabolism?
TA: Protein metabolism is very complex and is an area of science we’re only beginning to really understand. However, there are some things which are relevant to my theory which bodybuilders should have a handle on. Basically, what you need to know is that all the amino acids we ingest in the form of proteins are broken down to free amino acids and used, for example, to build new proteins according to the metabolic state that exists at that moment in the body. What the body does with the various proteins once it disassembles them into these free amino acids depends on your previous food intake, your physical activity, your hormonal status, and a number of other things. These new proteins, depending on the type [e.g., muscle, gut, and liver proteins], have different rates of turnover. Since this area is quite complex, I have created an overview chart [below] that will hopefully offer some assistance. I think this chart includes some important information, especially for Muscle Media readers with a scientific background who are eager to learn more about protein metabolism. The numbers were chosen with a 200-lb bodybuilder in mind.
The free amino acid pool is mainly located inside cells and constitutes only about one percent of the body’s total amino acid content in the form of proteins. Since the free amino acid pool is smaller than the daily incoming amount of amino acids from food, the consequence of one day of protein deprivation could be disastrous. Luckily, the body has solved this problem by having a very high rate of protein turnover [more than one pound daily], and by keeping a pool of labile [this means they can easily change] proteins which are readily available to be broken down without interrupting normal body functions.9,14,17 By having this high rate of protein turnover, the body can easily change the distribution of proteins, and this is of prime importance. During infection [a form of metabolic stress], for example, when the body needs to synthesize antibodies [which are proteins], the building blocks [amino acids] will be taken mostly from labile proteins, but unfortunately, during longer periods of sickness, starvation, or trauma, muscle protein will also be broken down to provide raw material for new proteins.
By studying the chart, you can see how I came to the conclusion that there are at least four areas we as bodybuilders must target: 1) decrease amino acid breakdown, 2) increase protein synthesis, 3) decrease protein breakdown, and 4) increase the proportion of newly synthesized muscle proteins. All the details about how to accomplish this are too complicated to get into in this article. However, in regard to protein intake, I can mention that degradation, or breakdown, is temporarily suppressed by an increased protein intake,8,16 and synthesis is promoted at intakes above 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day [g/kgBW/d].16,21 For a 200-lb lifter, that’s about 130 grams of protein per day.
The size of the free amino acid pool is remarkably constant,24 and this, my friends, is bad news for bodybuilders since it has been shown that the amount of free amino acids both inside muscle cells and in the blood6 governs protein synthesis. This pool can be controlled very closely by a “safety valve” called “oxidation.”4 By this process, the carbon skeletons from the excess amino acids are used to create energy. This can happen directly or via the synthesis of glucose [gluconeogenesis] or fat.
Another “safety valve” is the up-regulation of the enzymes in the urea cycle. This metabolic cycle takes place in the liver, and its purpose is to eliminate nitrogen [from protein] by converting it into a water-soluble form called urea, which can be excreted in the urine. The urea cycle and other liver enzymes also break down excess amino acids directly.
There are also other “safety valves” or systems the body uses to maintain a constant amino acid and protein balance, but the important thing to remember is that there are a number of systems that are altered for better or worse when you follow a high-protein diet. The consequence of this is that if you habitually consume a high-protein diet, you are setting off multiple “adaptations” and alterations in how your body metabolizes protein – it influences your protein requirement.18,19 In other words, the more protein you ingest, the more you need! This may not sound so bad for a protein lover, but think twice and you will see its downside. Eventually, you will need such a high protein intake in order to generate the positive effects that health problems could occur.
Another consideration is a large amount of protein supplements could be necessary to meet the extraordinary protein requirement you’ve built up.
And, perhaps most importantly, if you develop this need for a high amount of protein and you miss a meal or during your long overnight fast [the time you don’t eat while you’re sleeping], your body is quickly thrown into a protein catabolic state. You literally have to eat protein every few hours in order to not go “catabolic.”
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, your body has the ability to adapt to almost anything you subject it to. For example, those individuals [probably not Muscle Media readers] who consume alcohol habitually experience an up-regulation in certain enzymes that metabolize alcohol; thus, the more frequently they drink, the more they need to consume to get intoxicated [drunk]. Follow me?
BP: I think so. What you’re saying is if I consume 400 grams of protein every day, initially this might cause an anabolic effect, but eventually, if I keep doing this, I’ll need 400 grams of protein a day just to maintain my current level of muscle mass. Is this what you’re saying?
TA: Exactly. The body adapts by up-regulating enzymes and systems that break down amino acids.
BP: So how much protein should we consume?
TA: At first glance, a diet dominated by protein seems to be the logical choice for every bodybuilder. After all, there are reasons this macronutrient is called protein – it’s Greek for “of prime importance.”
In addition to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, protein contains nitrogen and some sulfur, which make it different from fats and carbohydrates.
Protein can be used to create carbohydrates, and with some difficulties, it can be converted to fat, but carbohydrates and fats can never be turned into proteins unless nitrogen is present, and as we’ve already discussed, nitrogen comes only from protein.
Strangely enough, the current United States Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) does not include an additional amount of protein for those who regularly engage in physical exercise.15 Several recent studies, however, indicate that dietary protein intake in excess of the current RDA [.8 g/kgBW/d – that’s only 72 grams a day for a 200-lb bodybuilder] is likely needed for optimal muscle growth. For example, in one study, heavy resistance-training young adult men consuming 3.3 g/kgBW/d [which is about 300 grams per day for a 200-lb guy] versus 1.3 [about 120 grams a day] gained 2.2 more pounds of bodyweight in just 14 days4!
Another study found protein synthesis in strength-training subjects went up when protein intake was increased from .9 to 2.4 g/kgBW/d.21 These studies concluded that 2.4 and 3.3 g/kgBW/d, respectively, were in excess of the amount needed for optimal muscle growth. For example, in the study using 3.3 g/kgBW/d, the “safety valve,” called oxidation, increased by 159%.4 These and other researchers now think that the “optimal” protein intake for strength-training athletes might be 1.8 g/kgBW/d11,21 [about 160 grams of protein for a 200-lb lifter].
I strongly disagree with this theory. I do not believe the subjects who put on an additional 2.2 lbs of mass in 14 days by increasing their protein intake to 3.3 g/kgBW/d4 would have been equally successful if they had increased it only to 1.8 g/kgBW/d.
BP: So why would the researchers only recommend 1.8 g/kgBW/d?
TA: I think the answer lies in how we would define the word “optimal.” For bodybuilders, it means maximum muscle growth, while for scientists, it means, more or less, the level at which “safety valves” are induced disproportionately to increased protein intake.25 This discrepancy can be explained within the anabolic drive theory, which was developed by a scientist named D.J. Millward, who has developed other interesting theories on muscle growth which we’ve discussed in earlier parts of this article series.
Dr. Millward believes dietary protein is a key active nutritional regulator. In short, his anabolic drive theory states that “excessive dietary indispensable [essential] amino acids, prior to their oxidation, exert an important transient regulatory influence on growth, development, and protein turnover, through their activation of various hormonal and metabolic responses, which collectively constitute the anabolic drive.”12
The response he’s referring to consists of an increase in anabolic hormones, including thyroid hormone [T3] which, in small amounts, is anabolic in muscle tissue. The metabolic response is a direct effect of enzymes stimulating protein synthesis and inhibiting protein degradation.
Notice that Millward mentioned this is a transient phenomenon, giving evidence that the anabolic drive theory is very much in line with my protein cycling theory.
Basically, what it all amounts to is that there are pros and cons associated with a high protein intake – the way to get the positive without the negative is to cycle protein intake.
BP: How did you come up with your protein cycling theory?
TA: My interest in protein cycling originated about a year ago when I realized that if you change from a diet with normal protein intake to one with a high intake, after about a week, you will have less amino acids in your blood than before upping your protein intake.13 The reason for this is not only enzymatic adaptation but also hormonal changes. A high protein intake stimulates the release of a hormone called glucagon, which is a hormone that opposes the effects of the anabolic hormone insulin.
With increased protein intake, the urea cycle runs at a faster pace to excrete the nitrogen from the excess amino acids. Glucagon is also “consuming” amino acids, but in this case, to create glucose [gluconeogenesis] by up-regulating gluconeogenic enzymes. Unfortunately, these two systems overcompensate and thus decrease the amount of available amino acids in the bloodstream. However, it seems that the transport of amino acids into muscle is initially improved.
After examining this issue, I went on to explore what happens during a period of low protein feeding. What I discovered is there are several mechanisms that preserve muscle proteins in favor of, for example, liver proteins [which include more labile proteins], during this condition. First of all, muscle proteins have a longer life span than liver proteins, so initially [during the first few days of protein deprivation], liver proteins, rather than muscle proteins, are lost, and muscle mass is remarkably well preserved.7 Furthermore, the urea-cycle enzymes are down-regulated [interestingly, the same thing happens during overfeeding3]; thus, less urea is formed, and this urea can, under these conditions, even be recycled by something called the urea-salvage pathway to create amino acids again.10 This also takes place during training and recovery.2 Even more interesting are the events within the muscle cell. During the first day of a low protein intake, protein synthesis is decreased while the degradation is constant. After three days, however, the degradation is significantly lowered.23 Thus, in essence, a three-day, low-protein diet actually stimulates anti-proteolytic mechanisms, or “anti-catabolism” as it is often referred to in the muscle magazines.
Now comes the very interesting part – when you switch back to a high-protein diet, you create the perfect environment for super-compensation of muscle proteins [GROWTH!] to take place. Here’s why:
The amino acids [nitrogen] will stay in the body since urea-cycle enzymes are still down-regulated, and the urea-salvage pathway is still operating.
The nitrogen balance in muscle is dramatically elevated because the synthesis is rapidly increased due to improved availability of amino acids20 and because it takes two days for protein degradation to increase23 back to your baseline value, which is still lower than average due to the high protein intake.8,16
These very important observations are the basis for protein cycling within the framework of my Anabolic Burst Cycling System. By doing these micro-cycles, especially during the low-calorie phase, you can experience muscle growth, even though you are on a restricted-calorie diet – you can build muscle and burn fat at the same time! This is what “nutrient repartitioning” is all about – you drive energy stores from fat to fuel muscle tissue. It is a “rob Peter to pay Paul” phenomenon. Unfortunately, this “primed condition” exists for only about two or three days.
BP: I see – what you’re saying is that during the low-calorie phase of your Anabolic Burst Cycling Program, we should consume a high-protein diet for three days, then a low-protein diet for three days, then a high-protein diet for three days. How much protein are we talking about during each phase?
TA: In this case, I consider a low-protein intake to be equivalent to slightly above the RDA or 1.1 g/kgBW/d [for a 200-lb bodybuilder, that’s roughly 100 grams of protein per day]. There really is no true protein malnutrition, as long as you eat enough carbohydrates to keep the “safety valves” closed [carbohydrates inhibit gluconeogenesis and the urea cycle]. Still, 1.1 g/kgBW/d is a small amount compared to what most bodybuilders ingest daily. I know some bodybuilders who regularly consume upwards of 400 or 500 grams of protein a day-they are definitely “protein dependent.” Nevertheless, even my low protein intake is enough to maintain muscle mass in the steroid-free bodybuilder.22
If you take protein cycling to its extreme, you could go on an even lower protein intake – down to as low as 60 grams per day and instead consume high doses of glutamine and HMB. In this situation, as well as during overtraining, glutamine and HMB may be useful as they inhibit protein breakdown. This low intake of protein would prime the enzymes even more for the high-protein days.
I believe that, optimally, protein cycling should prime the enzymes, assuming we’re talking about a 200-lb athlete with a single-digit bodyfat percentage who is fluctuating his protein intake between 100 grams on his low-protein days and around 250-300 grams on his high-protein days.
BP: What type of protein do you recommend? Should it be chicken, fish, milk protein, or whey protein?
TA: I believe during the low-protein days, the importance of protein quality is amplified. Whenever you drop protein intake, the amount of glutathione, which is the body’s most important antioxidant, drops as well. This may be mitigated by supplementing the diet with ion-exchanged whey protein.1 Whey protein may also increase the amount of IGF-1, an important anti-catabolic hormone. And, whey proteins have the best amino acid profile, so they minimize the risk of deficiency in individual amino acids. Remember, the lack of one single type of amino acid is sufficient to hamper protein synthesis.
BP: Should a bodybuilder cycle protein during the high-calorie phase?
TA: I don’t believe so. My impression is we shouldn’t cycle protein intake during the overfeeding phase because we are trying to evoke a burst of anabolic hormones associated with overfeeding.5 During the anabolic/bulking phase, there must be a steady oversupply of all macronutrients. A two-week period of medium to high protein intake [approximately 2.5 g/kgBW/d – about 225 grams a day for a 200-lb bodybuilder] will not drive amino acid catabolic enzymes wild. I do not recommend consuming huge – that is, over 300 grams a day – amounts of protein over an extended period of time.
BP: There has been some debate in the scientific community about whether high-protein diets are dangerous. What do you think?
TA: I don’t recommend a very high-protein diet nor protein cycling to people with insufficient kidney function [with serum creatinine over 150 micromol/l] since the high-protein days could throw such a person into a “uremic state,” which is not only muscle catabolic but also very unhealthy. For people with critical liver dysfunction, a high-protein diet could also become a problem by inducing encephalopathy [brain damage].
For healthy people, however, protein cycling is probably healthier than chronic high protein intakes. I believe some bodybuilders who are consuming these outrageously high protein intakes – over 400 grams per day – underestimate the possible long-term side effects of such nutritional practices. With these super-high-protein diets, the excess protein is partly converted to toxic metabolites, such as homocysteine and ammonia. [You know you’re consuming way too much protein when your gym clothes start to stink like ammonia-even after washing them!]
Most scientists I work with believe nowadays a moderately high-protein diet, especially for people who pay close attention to their fluid balance [increased water loss almost always accompanies a high-protein diet] are not at an increased risk for kidney or liver damage. The problem with many bodybuilders is that it’s hard to determine if their abnormal liver and kidney parameters are a result of present or prior use of anabolic steroids or if it’s due to dietary factors.
Bodybuilders who consume a super-high-protein diet and are convinced they need this much protein probably do! By consuming so much protein day in and day out, their bodies become so efficient at breaking down amino acids that they have turned their metabolic systems into “protein monsters” that devour amino acids before they can be used to build muscle tissue.
BP: Should you cycle carbohydrates and fat, as well as protein?
TA: There is some basis for performing micro-cycles within the Anabolic Burst Cycling System with carbohydrates and fat, but they are quite different; however, there may be important “tricks” for fat loss especially. I hope to review these in a future article, but for now, if someone is following all the recommendations I made in the first three parts of this article, the next step for them – the thing they can do to get even better results, provided they’re following all of my instructions with discipline, is to experiment with protein cycling.
BP:If people are on high-protein diets, how can they get their systems back into balance?
TA: I would recommend that anyone who is on a very high-protein diet start cycling protein intake and gradually lower it. Let’s say a 200-lb bodybuilder is consuming 400 grams of protein a day. What I would recommend is that for 3 days, he should cut down to 200 grams of protein a day, then go up to 350 grams a day for 3 days, then come down to about 150 grams a day, up to 250 grams a day for 3 days, and so on.
BP: Who should try protein cycling, and why?
TA: If a person’s goal is to lose fat while gaining muscle at the same time, protein cycling is definitely something he/she should experiment with. In short, here are the basics which can set you up for your first protein cycle “test drive”: the ideal period to start this is right after an overfeeding cycle in my Anabolic Burst Cycling System. You would start out with 3 days of high protein intake, which in this case is around 3.3 g/kgBW/d, which for a 200-lb athlete would be around 300 grams of protein per day. To this, additional amounts of carbohydrates and fats should be added to reach the desired total energy intake. For example, on your low-calorie/cutting days, I understand you’re consuming around 1,800 calories. Now, if you want to follow my protein cycling program, you can consume 2,100 calories instead. Good news, huh? This has to do with protein’s thermogenesis and thyroid-stimulating effect during hypocaloric conditions, as well as the fact that you also automatically cycle the intake of carbohydrates which, in this case, have a “sympathicomimetic effect” [which means they stimulate the nervous system]. For now, Bill, just trust me on this. After consuming 300 grams of protein, you’d have only about 900 calories left to consume. I would recommend around 125 grams of carbohydrates and roughly 45 grams of fat. Of course, people with a higher energy intake on their dieting days would consume more carbohydrates and fat.
After 3 days, you would switch over to 1.1 g/kgBW/d, which would be around 100 grams of protein per day or less. Be sure to use HMB and glutamine during the low-protein days to help minimize protein breakdown while you simultaneously attempt to “up-regulate” enzymes that will help us “super-compensate” protein storage [gain muscle size!] when we start our next high-protein micro-cycle.
I recommend you don’t perform any weight-training exercise during the first of the low-protein days and no aerobics on the second morning. Also, drink a lot of water (about 120 oz per day), especially during the high-protein days.
Because you’ll be shooting for the same number of total calories, Bill, in your case about 2,100, you will increase your carbohydrate and fat intake. For example, during your low-protein days, you would consume only around 400 calories from protein. The rest would be made up of carbohydrates and fat. In this case, you would go for a high carbohydrate intake (this is especially important during the first day of low protein intake) and try to eliminate fat as much as possible.
After reviewing these theories with Torbjorn, I’m convinced there is so much more to bodybuilding nutrition than meets the eye, and I believe that by digging deep into reservoirs of science, we can uncover new, potent, drug-free ways to enhance the muscle-building effects of weight-training exercise.
Certainly, the generic recommendation of “eat right and exercise” leaves way too many unanswered questions for bodybuilders who are trying to build “super-human” strength and muscularity.
In the next issue of Muscle Media, we’ll explore more exciting, new frontiers in bodybuilding nutrition.
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3 E. Estornell, et al., “Improved Nitrogen Metabolism in Rats Fed on Lipid-Rich Liquid Diets,” Br. J. Nutr. 71.3 (1994) : 361-373.
4 E.B. Fern, et al., “Effects of Exaggerated Amino Acid and Protein Supply in Man,” Experientia 47.2 (1991) : 168-172.
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– Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise Part I:
– Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise Part II:
– Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise Part III:
– Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise Part IV :