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Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise (ABCDE) – Torbjorn Akerfeldt – Part 4

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
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.

Progress Report
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.

References Cited
1 G. Bounous, et al., “The Influence of Dietary Whey Protein on Tissue Glutathione and the Diseases of Aging,” Clin. Invest. Med. 12.6 (1989) : 343-349.
2 F. Carraro, et al., “Urea Kinetics in Humans at Two Levels of Exercise Intensity,” J. Appl. Physiol. 75.3 (1993) : 1180-1185.
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.
5 G.B. Forbes, et al., “Hormonal Response to Overfeeding,” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 49.4 (1989) : 608-611.
6 D.A. Fryburg, et al., “Insulin and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 Enhance Human Skeletal Muscle Protein Anabolism During Hyperaminoacidemia by Different Mechanisms,” J. Clin. Invest. 96.4 (1995) : 1722-1729.
7 P.J. Garlick, et al., “The Effect of Protein Deprivation and Starvation on the Rate of Protein Synthesis in Tissue of the Rat,” Biochim. Biophys. Acta 414.1 (1975) : 71-84.
8 N.R. Gibson, et al., “Influences of Dietary Energy and Protein on Leucine Kinetics During Feeding in Healthy Adults,” Am. J. Physiol. 270.2 (1996) : E282-291.
9 A.A. Jackson, “Nutrition Adaptation in Disease and Recovery,” Nutritional Adaptation in Man, eds. Sir K.L Blaxter and J.C. Waterlow (London: Libbey, 1985) 111-126.
10 M. Langran, et al., “Adaptation to a Diet Low in Protein: Effect of Complex Carbohydrate Upon Urea Kinetics in Normal Man,” Clin. Sci. 82.2 (1992) : 191-198.
11 P.W. Lemon, et al., “Protein Requirements and Muscle Mass/Strength Changes During Intensive Training in Novice Bodybuilders,” J. Appl. Physiol. 73.2 (1992) : 767-775.
12 D.J. Millward and J.P.W. Rivers, “The Need for Indispensable Amino Acids: The Concept of the Anabolic Drive,” Diabetes Metab. Rev. 5.2 (1989) : 191-211.
13 C. Moundras, et al., “Dietary Protein Paradox: Decrease of Amino Acid Availability Induced by High-Protein Diets,” Am. J. Physiol. 264.6 Pt. 1 (1993) : G1057-1065.
14 H.N. Munro, “General Aspects of the Regulation of Protein Metabolism By Diet and Hormones,” Mammalian Protein Metabolism, Vol. 3, eds. H.N. Munro and J.B. Allison (New York: Academic Press, 1964) 381-481.
15 National Research Council, Recommended Daily Allowances, Vol. 10 (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989) 52-77.
16 P.J. Pacy, et al., “Nitrogen Homeostasis in Man: The Diurnal Responses of Protein Synthesis and Degradation and Amino Acid Oxidation to Diets With Increasing Protein Intakes,” Clin. Sci. 86.1 (1994) : 103-116.
17 J. Peret, “Nitrogen Excretion on Complete Fasting and on a Nitrogen-Free Diet-Endogenous Protein,” Protein and Amino Acid Functions, ed. E.J. Bigwood (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1972) 73-118.
18 G.M. Price, et al., “Nitrogen Homeostasis in Man: Influence of Protein Intake on the Amplitude of Diurnal Cycling of Body Nitrogen,” Clin. Sci. 86.1 (1994) : 91-102.
19 M.R. Quevedo, et al., “Nitrogen Homeostasis in Man: Diurnal Changes in Nitrogen Excretion, Leucine Oxidation and Whole Body Leucine Kinetics During a Reduction From a High to a Moderate Protein Intake,” Clin. Sci. 86.2 (1994) : 185-193.
20 S.M. Robinson, et al., “Protein Turnover and Thermogenesis in Response to High-Protein and High-Carbohydrate Feeding in Men,” Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 52.1 (1990) : 72-80.
21 M.A. Tarnopolsky, et al., “Evaluation of Protein Requirements for Trained Strength Athletes,” J. Appl. Physiol. 73.5 (1992) : 1986-1995.
22 M.A. Tarnopolsky, et al., “Influence of Protein Intake and Training Status on Nitrogen Balance and Lean Body Mass,” J. Appl. Physiol. 64.1 (1988) : 187-193.
23 N.E. Tawa, Jr., and A.L. Goldberg., “Suppression of Muscle Protein Turnover and Amino Acid Degradation by Dietary Protein Deficiency,” Am. J. Physiol. 263.2 (1992) : E317-325.
24 J.C. Waterlow, et al., Protein Turnover in Mammalian Tissue and in the Whole Body (New York: North-Holland, 1978).
25 V.R. Young, et al., “Whole Body Protein and Amino Acid Metabolism: Relation to Protein Quality Evaluation in Human Nutrition,” J. Agric. Food Chem. 29.3 (1981) : 440-447.

Related links:
– 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 :


– How to BULK UP Fast! (TRUTH about “Bulking and Cutting”) – Athlean-X

– Coach Charles Poliquin’s Take on Bulking Myths

Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise (ABCDE) – Torbjorn Akerfeldt – Part 3

“Your presentation of the Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise (ABCDE) System, for me, has been the most result-producing program and the most valuable concept I’ve ever come across in any bodybuilding publication. I have followed your recommendations exactly as presented, and after struggling for 2 years to add muscle size to my 5’9″, 164-lb frame, with high-intensity training, and every conceivable protein supplement, this hardgainer went up to 175 lbs during the first complete cycle and up to 184 with the second cycle (a 20-lb increase in just 2 months!). This program is incredible!” Tim Morrison, Oak Park, IL

“As a passionate (and somewhat frustrated) bodybuilder, I was thrilled to read your recent articles entitled ‘Get Ready to Grow, Big Time.’ I think these are the best nutrition articles I’ve read in any bodybuilding magazine ever! I was thrilled, partly because it made so much bottom-line nutritional sense. Also, I was excited because this was something I could try without investing a lot of money in supplements or trying to hook up with some Mexican steroid connection. I’ve been on the program for only two weeks, but I’ve already gained ten pounds, and I’m psyched!”Keith Rivera, Philadelphia, PA

“I’m very impressed with the two articles on the Anabolic Burst Cycling System. This Swedish scientist is a genius! I think it is great that bodybuilding has people like that and that Muscle Media is seeking out these experts and teaching us how to build our bodies naturally. I’ve been on the program for one month and have already gained more new size and strength than I had in the past year!”Jud Dickenson, Oklahoma City, OK

“I read about Torbjorn Akerfeldt’s ABCDE Program, and it makes perfect scientific sense. As I write this letter, I’ve just completed my first 2-week anabolic phase, followed by 14 days of strict dieting. I can’t believe how much different I look; neither can my friends!”Dave Cazares, Houston, TX

“After reading your articles about this Anabolic Burst Cycling System, I decided to give it a try. Let me tell you, this system is no joke! I increased the strength in my pressing exercises by 15-30 lbs in just a few weeks. The bulking phase of the ABCDE left me with a huge increase in energy, too. And, I still have abs, even though I have been eating everything I can get my hands on. I plan to start the dieting phase Monday.”Mike Pestilli,

oy, when I asked for feedback from people who’ve tried the Anabolic Burst Cycling System, I never imagined my office would be flooded with faxes, letters, and e-mail

messages from bodybuilders, from literally around the world, who decided to take the Anabolic Burst Cycling System plunge. The feedback I just shared with you is just a small sample of the input–the vast majority of which has been overwhelmingly positive.
Along with all that exciting feedback, I’ve also received a lot of questions from people who are either experimenting with Torbjorn Akerfeldt’s Anabolic Burst Cycling System or are getting ready to start the program. Thus, in this, Part III of our “Get Ready to Grow, Big Time” superfeature series, I decided to take these questions to Torbjorn Akerfeldt and get you the answers you need to make this program work for you.

First, A Quick Review…
If you haven’t read Parts I and II of the “Get Ready to Grow, Big Time” superfeatures, I would strongly encourage you to do so–otherwise the information in this article is not going to be as helpful as it could be. The information in these articles is contained in my brand-new Sports Supplement Review. If you don’t already have a copy, you can find out how to order one by flipping to page 42. (The book is free–it costs only $3 for postage and handling.) Also, both of these articles can be pulled up on our Muscle Media home page at (Link to Part1) (Link to Part 2). Alternatively, back issues are available by calling 1-800-297-9776. You’ll need the March (#58) and May (#59) 1997 issues.
Here’s a crash course on what the Anabolic Burst Cycling System is all about: it’s a new bodybuilding concept developed by a Swedish researcher and bodybuilder named Torbjorn Akerfeldt. He has developed a theory (which is based on some very compelling scientific evidence) that when bodybuilders overfeed (eat a high-calorie diet) for two weeks and weight train very intensely and then go on a low-calorie diet for two weeks, accompanied by moderately intense weight-training and aerobic exercise, bodybuilders may be able to pack on new muscle size and strength at a phenomenal rate.
In previous articles, Torbjorn explained the scientific rationale behind this exciting, new program. A principle component of his theory is that scientific studies have shown that short-term overfeeding causes a dramatic increase–a burst–of the anabolic hormones insulin, IGF-1, and testosterone.15 What it comes down to is that if you’ve been consuming a maintenance-calorie diet (not bulking up or cutting) and you go on a high-calorie program, your body will store a lot of those excess calories as muscle mass.15,21 But, if the high-calorie diet is continued beyond approximately two weeks, Akerfeldt theorizes that your body will become much more efficient at storing this excess energy (calories) as fat. He sent the chart on page 82 to show how overfeeding for more than about 14 days leads to a greater increase in fat mass. To be honest, I don’t really understand the chart, but Torbjorn was certain some of our more scientifically inclined readers would. Suffice it to say, Torbjorn didn’t just wake up one day and think, “Let’s eat a lot for two weeks and then eat less for two weeks.” He has literally spent years developing this theory.
Torbjorn has also discovered that two weeks of strict dieting, following an overfeeding period, allows you to quickly shed any excess bodyfat you accumulate during the high-calorie phase; thus, you avoid the problems bodybuilders have always experienced in the past while bulking up, which is that we end up gaining as much or more fat as muscle during the bulking phase. For the drug-free bodybuilder, this is even more of a problem because when we go on a long period of dieting, not only is it torturous but we also end up losing most, if not all, of the muscle we’ve gained.
Anyway, the new system Torbjorn Akerfeldt developed is called the Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise (ABCDE), and by all accounts, the system flat-out works, if you follow it correctly.
In Part II of this article, I told you about the exact nutrition, exercise, and supplementation plan I used for taking the program for a “test drive.” At the end of this article, I’ll tell you how the Anabolic Burst Cycling Program is working for me. But first, let’s tackle some of the most frequently asked questions about Anabolic Burst Cycling, so we can all learn more about this exciting, new bodybuilding discovery and how to apply it with the utmost accuracy and precision.

Bill Phillips: One of the challenges some people are having with the program is that they just can’t keep their appetites up. They’re having a hard time consuming a high-calorie diet for two weeks straight. What’s the solution?

Torbjorn Akerfeldt: Fortunately, this is not a widespread problem. Most bodybuilders love to eat, and the two-week anabolic phase allows them to have a few meals here and there that might usually be considered “off limits” for bodybuilders. Provided the base nutritional program is rich with quality protein, carbs, and unsaturated fat, you can have some of your favorite foods like hamburgers, some pizza, lots of pasta, etc. [By the way, you should never eat high-glycemic carbs and saturated fat together.] For a lot of bodybuilders, the two-week overfeeding phase is a welcomed feast. However, for those who are having difficulty consuming a high-calorie diet every day for 14 days in a row–which is vitally important!–I would suggest they try to drink more calories. For example, making protein drinks with milk will allow you to take in a lot of calories that are easily digested. One of the problems I think some people run into is their systems haven’t digested one meal by the time their schedule says they should be eating the next. This really hurts the appetite.
Here’s one strategy you might want to try–let’s say your diet calls for you to consume 4,500 calories a day for 14 days during the bulking-up phase; try to make sure you have 6 different meals each day, and each meal contains around 600-900 calories. Don’t make the mistake of pigging out too much and putting down 1,500 calories all at one time. Overloading the digestive system like this does not allow for optimal nutrient absorption and digestion.
One thing that works really well is to have three or four regular food meals, consisting of chicken, pasta, and vegetables, and then for the next meal, which you should have approximately three and a half hours later, you might have a meal-replacement drink, like Myoplex Plus mixed with milk–if you tolerate milk products, of course. [Bill does; I don’t.] Then, a few hours later, you might have another regular-food meal.
Remember, you don’t have to have a lot of money to try the Anabolic Burst Cycling System–the main ingredient for the success of this system is simply food. Supplements can help out–especially ones that improve your nutrition program and help increase your calories, but most of what you need to succeed on this system can be found at the grocery store.

BP: A number of Muscle Media readers have told me they have very low energy levels during the dieting phase. Is there anything they can do to make this low-calorie phase “less painful”?

TA: Unfortunately, as anyone who has dieted–which includes virtually every bodybuilder–has discovered, it’s just not easy. Our bodies do not want to lose fat; that’s not what we were made for. Our bodies were designed to store fat to help us survive periods of famine. When we restrict calories, we are fighting literally tens of thousands of years of evolution. It’s difficult; however, the great thing about my program is the diet is only two weeks long. Most bodybuilders I know, when they’re trying to get cut up for a photo shoot or contest, have to literally starve themselves for two, three, even four months. On the ABCDE Program, one of the things that really helps “compliance” is that you know you have to crack down and diet really hard for only a short period of time.
Usually the reason people have really low energy on the dieting phase is because their blood sugar levels are dropping; they feel weak and irritated. This can be avoided if you keep your insulin levels stable, and one of the best ways to do that is by having a protein drink when you feel a drop in blood sugar. Under hypocaloric [low-calorie] conditions, there is no risk the protein drink will convert to fat [de novo lipogenesis], instead it will be used to create glucose [gluconeogenesis], thus increasing blood sugar. I suggest consuming five or six meals a day during the dieting phase–they just have to be smaller meals.
Some people use appetite suppressants, like Redux and fen/phen, but I don’t recommend those. I think the best thing you can do is eat small, high-nutrition meals throughout the day, and whenever you do start feeling weak, make sure you have a snack of some kind, like a vegetable or even a chicken breast. It’s also important to consume a lot of fiber during both the bulking and cutting phases.

BP: Some readers have heard overfeeding will lead to an increase in fat cell number. Is that true?

TA: To answer this question, I need to get into some rather complicated science, but please bear with me since this is really the essence of my overfeeding theory. First, we have to realize that during weight gain, there’s an initial increase in fat cell volume until a “critical” point is reached, and thereafter recruitment of new cells occurs,5 also known as “adipocyte hyperplasia.” This is something we must avoid; otherwise, we’ll “blow up” more easily when we start the second bulking cycle.
The ABCDE Program is designed to avoid this hyperplasia through a number of measurements. The most important one being the precise determination of the length of the overfeeding cycle, as well as the number of excess calories. In addition to this, there are methods to avoid reaching this “critical” point. I’ll discuss those in future articles. One important factor in this regard is insulin insensitivity, which we must realize is a very selective property. During overfeeding, it will first affect the fat cell20,22 [adipocyte], which is a positive thing since it will force energy substrates [glucose, fatty acids, and, indirectly, amino acids] into the muscle cell instead of the fat cell.16 This is called nutrient repartitioning and is what bodybuilding is really all about. Eventually, insulin sensitivity of the muscle cell drops,20 which leads to decreased inflow of nutrients to the muscle and hence inhibits muscle growth. To compensate, the body will make more insulin and more glucose transporters16 [GLUT-4] in fat cells and voilà–the number of fat cells increases.16 I have exemplified this in the chart which appears below.

The important thing is not that you understand every detail. The important thing is that you realize the importance of limiting the length of overfeeding and why the traditional bulking periods of several months are so counterproductive. Other important factors in this regard are intramuscular fat, regional fat distribution factors, prostaglandin J2, TNF-alpha, and cortisol, but as I mentioned, how one could affect these factors is out of the scope of this interview and will be discussed in the future. So the answer to your question is NO, additional fat cells don’t form as long as you follow my guidelines.

BP: You recommend doing aerobic exercise first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. A number of Muscle Media readers have pointed out that aerobic exercise burns the exact same amount of calories no matter when you do it. They want to know if they can do aerobics, during the dieting phase, in the afternoon, after their weight-training exercise.

TA: It is true that if you do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, reaching a pulse rate of 120 beats per minute after a 12-hour fast, it probably burns the same amount of calories as when you do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, at an equal intensity, in the afternoon or evening, before or after a weight-training workout. The issue here is not how many calories you burn but where the energy comes from to fuel that exercise session. Remember, on the dieting phase, we’ve got to lose fat, and we’ve got to lose it fast! We need to do everything we can to get our bodies’ fat stores to “mobilize” or burn up. We are much more interested in burning fat than carbohydrates or, even worse, amino acids–all of these substrates can fuel aerobic exercise.
The fact is that during resistance training, your testosterone peaks after 20 minutes, and then testosterone is dropping while cortisol increases.11 This leads to a less-than-optimal testosterone to cortisol ratio and is a very important reason to perform short but intense weight-training sessions. In contrast, during the early morning, cortisol rises, but testosterone is also peaking; thus, the ratio does not change significantly. Furthermore, you could become slightly dehydrated by conducting aerobic exercise after weight training, which could also trigger catabolism. What you need after your weight-training session is rest, carbohydrates, protein, and water.

BP: A number of readers, who are looking to bulk up, asked if they should skip the aerobics altogether. What do you think?

TA: During the past few years, there has been a trend in bodybuilding to omit aerobic exercise. I guess it’s partially because there have been some studies showing that resistance training alone is quite effective for burning fat.32 This, as you just mentioned, has led a lot of bodybuilders to think they should skip “cardio” and instead do more of what we do best–lift weights. I don’t think this is a good idea, even though it will work for a small percentage of metabolically gifted individuals.
A natural bodybuilder just can’t handle more than four or five hours of intense weight training per week, but we need more exercise than this to burn fat on the cutting phase of my program.
Some people fear that if they do aerobics at all, they’ll lose muscle mass. This is not the case. Recent studies [using a sophisticated procedure called “stable isotopes”] have revealed that, “Although aerobic exercise may stimulate muscle breakdown, this does not result in a significant depletion of muscle mass because muscle protein synthesis is stimulated in recovery.” In this particular study, they experimented with aerobic exercise that was moderately intense [40% of VO2max, which corresponds to a heart rate of around 120 beats per minute].8 Also remember that one study with aerobic exercise during dieting indicated an increase in lean body mass.38 And yet another recent trial showed that combining a low-calorie diet with the combination of resistance training and aerobic exercise was the most efficient method of burning bodyfat.24
In spite of this evidence, I don’t recommend aerobic work the way many bodybuilders perform it, which is in what I call a “fed state” or after you’ve recently eaten. For example, I don’t recommend doing aerobic exercise at 6:00 at night if you had a meal at 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00. It will take you 30 minutes just to burn the calories from one snack or small meal. My time is more valuable than this, and I suspect yours is as well.
Going back to the last question, I want to emphasize again that the best way to maximize the benefits of aerobic exercise is to do it in the morning, after an overnight fast–after not eating for at least ten hours. Some time ago, at our metabolic lab here in Sweden, we found that subjects burned around three times more fat in the morning [after an overnight fast] during aerobic exercise compared to afternoon exercise in a fed state. We presented this information at the 1996 FASEB conference.
Even more interesting was the finding that the proportion of protein being burned decreased rather than increased during early morning exercise. In other words, at a heart rate of about 120 beats per minute, you will not experience muscle catabolism, even though you are fasting. Actually, we discovered that over a 24-hour period, a positive nitrogen balance of around 5-9%, depending on protein intake, was measured with something called “leucine isotopes,” which is one way we try to trace how much protein is being built up or broken down in your body in response to exercise.
Here’s one more tip: drink a liter of water on an empty stomach in the morning, about five minutes before your cardio. This will make your blood “hypo-osmolaric” which helps push fluids into muscle, where they may act to prevent protein breakdown according to Häussinger’s theory on cellular hydration, which states that, “Protein loss is triggered and maintained by reduced cell volume, secondary to loss of intracellular water.”19
The bottom line is, the best way to maximize the results from aerobic exercise during a fat-loss cycle is to do it first thing in the morning. Even if your primary goal with using the Anabolic Burst Cycling System is to bulk up, you have got to keep your system “primed” with each cutting cycle, and part of that is doing aerobic exercise. Thus, even if you just want to get big and strong, do your cardio!

BP: Readers have asked if there are any supplements they can take in the morning, before exercise, that might boost fat loss. Are there?

TA: There is something you can do that helps; in fact, I’ve discovered something very powerful which helps you increase the amount of fat burned during aerobic exercise, as well as increasing the release of adrenaline, which helps psyche you up a bit–especially early in the morning! This stuff also helps prevent the exercise-induced decrease in intramuscular potassium, which also plays an important role in keeping water inside the cell. This compound even helps spare glycogen. When you are running out of glycogen, there is a signal to start the breakdown of muscle protein and convert it to glucose. This process is called “gluconeogenesis.” Glycogen will also assist in keeping water inside the cell, which, as we’ve already discussed, is very important.
Fortunately, the compound I’m talking about is readily available, legal, affordable, and has no serious side effects. It’s called caffeine. Yes, regular ole caffeine. Not only does it do all the stuff I already mentioned,2,10,13,23,30 studies show caffeine helps increase performance, too. For example, in one study caffeine users were able to bicycle for 96 minutes until exhaustion, instead of 75 with a placebo, and gluconeogenesis decreased by 55%.30 What this means is that the muscle was using just half as much glycogen when caffeine was present–intramuscular triglycerides were used; thus, less water left the cell. In another similar study, but with competitive cyclists, caffeine users exercised for 90 minutes until they gave up, compared to 75 minutes for non-caffeine users. And what is even more interesting is that the caffeine group burned 1.31 grams of fat per minute, compared with .75 in the placebo group.10 That’s almost twice as much! Yet another study showed that exercising subjects who were using caffeine were able to work for 79 minutes versus 49 minutes [placebo group] until exhaustion.18 Caffeine also increases resting metabolic rate by up to 15%.1,3
All of these studies were using dosages producing urinary concentrations below the level accepted by the International Olympic Committee [12 mcg/ml].29
Now keep this in mind: the optimal effect from caffeine is when the glycogen deposits are low33–for example, after an overnight fast–and when the user is not tolerant or used to caffeine use.14 Thus, you should definitely cycle caffeine. Taking caffeine all the time not only lowers its effects but could also induce insulin resistance,26 which is something we must avoid.
I try to use caffeine only on the mornings I do aerobic exercise, which, during the dieting phase of my Anabolic Burst Cycling Program, is 3 or 4 mornings a week, for 30-45 minutes per session. I drink one liter of water five minutes prior to exercise. I also take in a couple hundred milligrams of caffeine as soon as I get up. Optimally, I like to take this caffeine at least 30-45 minutes before I start my cardio.

BP: What if someone eats lunch at noon and then does aerobic exercise at 6:00 p.m.? Is this enough of a fast to get the full benefits of aerobic exercise?

TA: I’m afraid this would not work out very well. You see, the “starvation time” must be longer than six hours before you encounter a significant increase in fat burning. The ideal time of fasting for optimal fat loss is around 10-12 hours, depending on the amount of glycogen you have stored at the onset of the fast.
It’s also not a good idea to go six hours during the day without eating. As I described already, during the anabolic phase you will not get maximum results unless you eat often throughout the day. And during the dieting phase, fasting during the day will likely produce low energy levels, making it difficult to exercise at all.
It’s a lot easier to fast during the nighttime–our bodies were obviously built for this. Some researchers now believe that one of the most important functions of this “hot” fat-burning hormone called “leptin” that you hear about in the news is that it inhibits hunger during the night hours.28 I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about it, but it’s actually pretty easy to go from 8:00 at night to 8:00 in the morning without eating. Think about why this is. There’s got to be some type of physiological mechanism that makes this possible. Leptin could have something to do with this. Think about how difficult it would be to go from 8:00 in the morning to 8:00 at night without eating–it would be literally painful.

BP: What should people eat after they work out?

TA: On the anabolic phase, after you conduct your intense weight-training sessions, you should try to consume a high amount of carbohydrates and protein. One recent study showed that consuming a post-workout supplement, which contained carbohydrates and whey protein, speeds recovery time, helps minimize the exercise-induced elevation in the catabolic hormone cortisol, and enhances protein synthesis.37 My feeling is that after a very intense weight-training session during the anabolic phase of this program, you should try to consume up to 1,000 calories within 2 hours. This could make a huge difference in how much muscle size and strength you gain.
During the dieting phase, after aerobic exercise, you may be able to burn fat at an accelerated rate for up to two and a half hours if you can continue to fast or avoid food. I call it “riding the wave of lipolysis.” But, this may not be much of a factor. Thus, if you feel like eating after you do your morning cardio, have a serving of protein and carbohydrates–nothing special–just an ordinary dieting bodybuilder breakfast, like egg whites and dry toast, would work just fine.
After you do your weight-training exercise on the dieting phase, I suggest consuming a protein and carbohydrate supplement, like a meal-replacement powder or a protein drink; it should just be a smaller portion than you would have during the bulking phase.

BP: Some bodybuilders have asked how to use steroids during the Anabolic Burst Cycling System. What is your response?

TA: In Parts I and II of this series of articles, I mentioned that the entire theory of inducing a “burst” of anabolic hormones while you are overfeeding is based on having a normal metabolism and hormonal environment. It is a well-known fact that taking anabolic steroids causes your body to shut down the natural production of a number of hormones, including testosterone.6,7,36 There’s no scientific evidence to suggest that a steroid user, or a bodybuilder who’s just coming off a steroid cycle, is going to get this dramatic increase in anabolic hormones, like a natural bodybuilder would. This program was not designed for anabolic steroid users–it’s a concept I developed which I believe allows bodybuilders who are not using drugs to gain considerable size and strength by taking advantage of the body’s natural response to certain “nutritional stimuli.”
The truth is, bodybuilders who use mega-doses of steroids don’t need to be sophisticated with their training and nutrition to get big. It’s somewhat ironic that some of the people who have the greatest level of knowledge about muscle building are not the biggest bodybuilders. I’m not saying all steroid users are ignorant about bodybuilding, but there’s no doubt there are some huge bodybuilders who have no idea how they got that way.
The people who have been most successful on the Anabolic Burst Cycling Program are natural weight trainers or those who have been off steroids for at least a year. I am convinced it’s important to have the endocrine system running smoothly to take full advantage of this system.

BP: Some readers have asked if it would help them lose fat faster if they took Cytomel [a synthetic T3 thyroid medication] during the dieting phase.

TA: Some competitive bodybuilders use thyroid drugs to help them lose fat faster. On the Anabolic Burst Cycling Program, this is a huge mistake. You see, it is well known that T3 thyroid up-regulates fat-producing enzymes, especially one called “malic enzyme.”12 Of course, this is not noticeable during the time you are on the thyroid medication, but when you stop taking it, without a doubt, you’ll notice an increase in fat. If you took Cytomel during the dieting phase and stopped taking it before the overeating phase, you would probably gain a lot more fat during the bulking days, because your body’s enzymes would be much more efficient at converting the excess calories to fat. Remember, the idea with ABCDE is that you should trick the body, not vice versa.

BP: Stretching is another thing many readers have asked about. I understand it’s important to stretch your muscles really hard after you’ve pumped them up, especially during the second week of the bulking phase, but why not stretch during the dieting phase? Even though the muscle cell is not hydrated to the maximum, wouldn’t stretching still help?

TA: As we discussed in the last article, I believe the science and empirical data offers compelling evidence that stretching a muscle after it is pumped helps expand the compartment that constricts muscle fibers. I compared this tight connective tissue that holds muscles together [the endomysium and paramysium] to a girdle–it will literally prevent the muscle from expanding if that compartment is not stretched. This is why some bodybuilders who get really big on steroids or by overfeeding are able to get really big, really fast again after taking time off from lifting. Some people call this “muscle memory,” but actually it’s that the compartment around the muscle tissue has already been stretched out before.
During this week of stretching, you are also supposed to concentrate on heavy eccentric movements. This makes it necessary to have a training partner during this time–both in regards to stretching and to weight training. You should thank me for not telling you to perform this kind of stretching all year round. But, I don’t refrain from telling you that because I’m kind; I do it for science which has shown that the fusion of satellite cells to the muscle fiber–which is one of the main reasons we perform this stretching–peaks after about five to seven days of stretching, at least in laboratory animals.34 It is reasonable to think that the muscle needs a couple of weeks off before this can happen again. Another benefit of this kind of stretching is that it increases local IGF-1 release up to 12-fold.17
Now, the stretching I’m talking about is not the type you might have done in high school before football practice. I’m talking about brutal, extreme stretching. Just the thought of this sometimes makes me cringe–it is extremely painful and unpleasant, unless you are a masochist. Why anyone would want to do this any more than one week a month is beyond my imagination.
Now, if you simply want to stretch out before you exercise or do some light stretching afterwards, that’s fine, but the only time you need to do these brutal stretches, which I’ll tell you all about in an upcoming Muscle Media article and my book, is when they’ll do the most good, which is the second week of the bulking phase.

BP: A couple dozen bodybuilders have asked me if they should use an essential-fatty-acid supplement, like flax-seed oil, on the ABCDE Program. What do you think?

TA: I believe essential-fatty-acid supplements are a good idea for bodybuilders. Flaxseed oil, which is a rich source of interesting substrates, including alpha-linolenic acid and soluble fiber mucilage, has some potentially beneficial effects. For example, it has been shown that alpha-linolenic acid may divert triglycerides from fat to muscle tissue,27 which as we discussed in Part II of this series, is a good thing. Mucilage, on the other hand, will slow down absorption of carbohydrates.31
As I explained before, you must avoid saturated fats as much as possible, while increasing the amount of unsaturated ones–using flaxseed oil is one good way of doing this. Barry Sears–the man behind the Zone Diet–concludes that flaxseed oil is bad for you since it is a precursor to “bad” eicosanoids. Well, since these so-called bad eicosanoids [such as PGE2] are necessary for testosterone production, I don’t think we should take this statement seriously; therefore, I recommend using between one and three tablespoons of flaxseed oil a day during the low-calorie/dieting phase.

BP: Here’s yet another frequently asked question–is there any way to use your theories of calorie cycling for fat loss?

TA: The concept of calorie cycling can indeed be applied to fat loss, but this is another subject altogether. In a nutshell, the prolonged adherence to any one nutritional program, be it a high-protein diet, a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-calorie diet, etc., will cause your body to adjust–to adapt and modify the way it responds. Through a relatively rapid adaptation process, your body will downgrade or upgrade certain enzymes in an effort to stay the same. I’m sure you’ve heard of “homeostasis,” which is the incredible ability of the human body to adapt to all different types of environmental stimuli, including: weight-training exercise, aerobics, supplements, drugs, nutrition, etc. Homeostasis is a good thing because it allows us to survive, but it can get in the way of our goals to change our bodies. As bodybuilders, we want to bulk up and gain muscle size and strength, which is not exactly what the body wants to do. Other people desire to lose a significant amount of bodyfat, which is also something our systems resist. I believe the secret to success is constantly tricking the body. There’s no question the concept of going on an extended low-calorie diet in an effort to lose bodyfat is a futile effort. Calorie cycling for fat loss will work. I’ll go into this in great detail in my upcoming book, and if there’s enough reader interest, we’ll do an entire feature article about this in an upcoming issue of Muscle Media.

BP: Some women have asked if the ABCDE Program will work for them, or is it just for men?

TA: Most of the theories that the ABCDE Program is based on will also benefit women who aspire to build more muscular, stronger bodies. There is one small exception though, and that concerns the anabolic phase. There seems to be a trend, in overfeeding studies, that men respond with a more favorable lean body mass to fat mass ratio. I have seen this in real life as well. I don’t know exactly why. Perhaps it is another phenomenon of the selective pressure of evolution–it could very well be that the metabolic system of men was forced to become more effective at storing excess energy as muscle tissue, while in women, excess energy was more preferentially stored as fat, which is, of course, the most effective energy storage site. Perhaps the men needed muscle strength to hunt and fight, while women needed more fat tissue to ensure their survival during periods of famine, during pregnancy, and to care for their children. This mechanism is probably mediated by the sex hormones estrogen and androgens, and the effects of these hormones on something called “lipoprotein lipase,” which is the most important enzyme in partitioning energy substrates to different tissues.
However, overfeeding studies have shown that women do experience an increase in anabolic hormones when they consume an excess number of calories.15 Keeping all this in mind, what I suggest is that women who want to gain more muscle size and strength overfeed for 2 weeks and then diet for 2 weeks, yet the 1 major modification should be that their overfeeding stage contain only 25% more calories than maintenance. For example, if a woman burns approximately 1,800 calories a day, I would suggest that she consume only 400-500 extra calories during her anabolic phase, and she should restrict calories by approximately 25% below maintenance during her dieting phase. Thus, for example, a woman whose basal metabolic rate is 1,800 calories per day should consume around 2,200-2,300 calories a day during the anabolic phase and around 1,300 calories during the dieting phase. I think this would produce favorable results.

BP: Readers have also asked why the dieting phase is only two weeks. Why isn’t it longer?

TA: I want to keep the dieting phase–or as I call it, the “anti-catabolic/lipolytic phase”–as short as possible. This is mainly due to three reasons. First, I want to initiate the overfeeding phase again as soon as possible to get back into the anabolic state. If one can start up the anabolic phase once every month and each cycle has, on average, resulted in a 2-lb quality muscle gain, we are talking about 24 lbs of new muscle tissue in a year. That’s a lot for a person with a few years of weight training under his/her belt. Second, the temptation to start cheating is much less when you know that within a limited period of time you can start eating “obscene” amounts of food again. Third, every hypocaloric diet will eventually lead to a loss of muscle mass unless you are on anabolic/androgenic steroids. Trust me, before this happens, you want to be back in the anabolic phase again.
Another reason to perform many cycles with short durations is that for every cycle you carry out, you will gain new experiences, especially if you record your weight, fat, and lean body mass. This experience can then be incorporated into your next cycle by doing the necessary changes. This way, you will also have the perfect setup for a competition with yourself. You will feel an urge to do better on every new cycle. This drive to excel is really the bottom line in successful bodybuilding!

BP: There have also been a number of queries about the “micro-cycling theories” you talked briefly about in the past two articles. What’s this about?

TA: My concept of micro-cycling is actually a sub-theory of the ABCDE Program. Not only do I recommend changing your calorie intake and exercise program every two weeks, I also think manipulating things like your protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake every three days, within the structure of the high- and low-calorie cycles, may allow you to get even better results faster. This is something I definitely can’t get into in this article because I couldn’t offer enough information, and it would just turn out to be confusing. And, with all of this feedback coming in, my theory on micro-cycling continues to evolve.
I really appreciate all of the people who are sending in their feedback. This “anecdotal” or real-world information is helping me refine my theories. This is something I can’t do simply sitting in a lab at the university.
My ABCDE book is in the works, although it will not be ready for several months. In this book, I will explain all the intricacies of this program, including micro-cycling. For now, if you want to give the ABCDE Program a try, simply focus on all the recommendations I have made in Parts I, II, and III of this article series. As you become more and more confident that you can change your body and be successful in this endeavor, you, in turn, will get even greater results!

More to Come…
Interviewing Torbjorn Akerfeldt is always fascinating–he has so much quality bodybuilding information to share. Thus, even though we’ve never had a four-part article in Muscle Media, this superfeature will continue in the next issue.

Remember, if you give this program a try, please keep track of how it works for you, and send me your feedback. In Part IV of this superfeature series, we’ll explore Torbjorn’s fascinating theories on protein and supplement cycling.

How the Anabolic Burst Cycling System Is Working for Me
In the last issue of Muscle Media, I outlined my version of the Anabolic Burst Cycling System–the exact program I planned to take for a “test drive.” I’ve included my basic overall nutrition and training program and game plan here again, so you can see my approach.
I started out by establishing a “baseline.” I consumed 2,500-2,800 calories a day for a week, just to make sure I was starting from the right point.
I then started my high-calorie phase on a Monday, with a big breakfast. In the midmorning, I had a high-protein supplement shake, a cheeseburger for lunch, another protein drink in the midafternoon, a post-workout carbohydrate and protein drink, followed by a hearty dinner, and a snack before I went to bed. I also used the supplements Phosphagen HP, Vitamin C, and Myoplex Plus Deluxe. At the end of the day, I didn’t feel anything special–just full. The second day, I continued to eat big–having a protein drink or a nutritious, good-sized meal every few hours.
Throughout the week, I tried very hard to follow the program I designed (the one in the chart on the next page). Probably the worst mistake I made is a couple of times I ate too much at once. For example, one time for dinner, my brother and I both ate an entire large pizza each while we watched a Colorado Avalanche hockey game at his place. I even felt full the next morning–it was hard to eat breakfast because my gut was so distended! (I felt like putting on the smallest posing trunks I could find, having my photo taken, and sending it in to Flex magazine. I think I might have been cover material.)
(Tip: If you’re going to try this program, eat pretty big meals often, but don’t gorge yourself. After each meal, you shouldn’t feel like you just had a Thanksgiving feast. You should just feel full, not stuffed. Follow me?)
The fourth day of my overfeeding cycle, I started to “bulge” (not just in my gut). I put on a pair of jeans that I often wear, and it felt like I was putting casts on my thighs. (My legs were bulking up–big time!) And, as you would suspect, when I trained I got mega-pumped; in fact, I would get a pump faster (after my warm-up sets I was already starting to get tight), and I would hold a pump longer–three hours after I got done working out, my muscles still felt full. It was cool!
After the first week, I hit the scale-I had gone from 197.5 to 202 lbs. I kept in touch with Torbjorn throughout this week and sent him my dietary records. He told me everything was on track and to simply do it again the next week, which I did.
I’ve got to admit, though, the second week I was actually starting to get tired of food. Those big meals that sounded so good the first week didn’t have much appeal at all. Instead of having a big lunch, I’d often have a Myoplex Plus with skim milk, and then about an hour later, I’d have a 12-oz glass of skim milk with chocolate Designer Protein in it. Knowing the importance of maintaining a constant overfeeding pattern, I made sure I consumed more than 4,000 calories every day. There were a few days when I ate over 5,000 calories but not one day where I went under 4,000. As I mentioned, there were a couple days I made myself sick eating too much of the wrong thing at the wrong time, but I would say 11 out of the 14 days I did exactly what I set out to do, which was to consume nutrient-rich, relatively high-calorie meals throughout the day. (There were a few times when I even got up in the middle of the night and had a protein drink. I think this is something that really helps my recovery, and it gives me a head start on the next day’s calorie intake.)

Day 14
By the end of the second week, there was no question that I was “bulked up.” You could see it in my face, my neck, and the way my clothes fit. My strength on the squat and bench press was noticeably improved. Typically, I can knock out 6 or 8 reps with 295 lbs on the bench press, almost any day. However, on my last chest workout on the bulking phase, I decided to “rep out” with 295–I got 13 solid, clean reps. (The last time I’d seen my body change this much in two weeks and felt so strong was when I first started taking creatine a couple years ago.)
The second week of my bulking phase, I gained another 3 lbs, which took me up to 205 lbs–a 7.5-lb increase, all total. I would imagine that a good portion of this weight was enhanced cellular hydration from the extra glycogen, creatine, and other nutrients I was storing, but as Torbjorn’s theory goes, a few pounds of this weight are actually new muscle tissue. And, I could tell by my “smothered abs” that a couple pounds were fat, but that’s to be expected.
Unfortunately, now I knew I had to hit the dieting phase. You see, if you continue the bulking phase for more than two weeks, you start putting on fat, fast. Studies show the burst of anabolic hormones you get from overfeeding peaks after 12-14 days.15 Thus, you need to diet for two weeks to lose what fat you gained during the bulking phase and to “reprime” your anabolic hormones, so they shoot up when you start overeating again. Follow me? Good.

Now the Tough Part
When I started the cutting phase, it was actually kind of a relief. I had been dreading the diet since I first designed my program. I hate dieting. (Who doesn’t?!) Anyway, on my first low-calorie day, I started off the morning with a glass of water, some caffeine, ephedrine, and aspirin, and I hit a 30-minute, relatively low-intensity ride on the stationary bike I have at home. Then I showered and took off for work. I ended up waiting about an hour before I ate–I had a serving of Myoplex Plus when I got to work, and let me tell you, I was starving! Throughout this entire day, I had hunger pangs. That was the hardest thing to deal with on that day. I didn’t really get light-headed or have low energy because I kept snacking on stuff throughout the day. I’d have an apple and some yogurt, a chicken breast and vegetables, a protein drink; I tried to eat something every few hours. There’s no question that it’s a big shock for your body to go from being stuffed all the time to eating very light. I think my stomach got stretched out or something on the bulking phase because it was roaring for food all day. Fortunately, by the third day of my diet, my stomach figured out it wasn’t going to be getting any pizza, hamburgers, or big meals of any kind for a while, and it settled down.
Throughout the rest of my dieting period, I got a little hungry, but when I did, I’d just have something light to eat. (Tip: If you try this program and you’re hungry or you feel light-headed like your blood sugar might be dropping, just eat something. It’s not a contest to see how much you can punish yourself–the goal is to just eat fewer calories than you burn off–to try to lose the fat you gained during the bulking phase.)
I switched from Phosphagen HP to BetaGen (a supplement that contains HMB and creatine) during the dieting phase.
Unfortunately, the fourth day of my dieting program, I got a little carried away with some Wheaties at about midnight–I think I ate half the box and drank half a gallon of skim milk while I sat in my kitchen, in the dark, watching the always totally lame Conan O’Brien Show. So, I blew it that night. But instead of getting all bent out of shape about it, I just tried to be even more disciplined the next day.
Throughout the dieting phase, I did aerobic exercise four mornings a week. I just sat there and pedaled my stationary bike or used the Stairmaster while I watched Good Morning, America. I hate aerobics. They always feel like a waste of time. I’d much rather be at work or lifting weights, but because Torbjorn believes “cardio” is so important, I did it.
After seven days of dieting, there was no question my body was going through another transformation. My face was going back to normal, my neck didn’t look as much like a tree trunk, and I could see the striations coming back out on my legs–striations I had before I started the bulking phase but which were pretty much “masked” after 14 days of high-calorie feeding.
I was surprised at how well I maintained my strength during the first week of dieting; in fact, I felt powerful, but the second week of dieting left me feeling pretty fragile.
On or about day 11, I blew my diet again–this time at a company brunch. (I seem to have a problem with overfeeding in a social atmosphere. Get me around a group of people eating and for some reason I think calories don’t count if everybody’s consuming them.) After three plates of waffles, a big cheese-smothered omelet, and a cinnamon roll, I felt guilty. I pretty much consumed an entire day’s worth of calories in one 15-minute binge. After blowing my diet at that brunch, I actually didn’t eat again until 8:00 that night when I had a protein drink and a cup of cottage cheese. (Tip: That is a stupid thing to do.) I think I pretty much salvaged my calorie intake that day, but I get an “F” for meal patterning.
Fortunately, on 10 of my 14 dieting days I consumed less than 1,800 calories, which was my goal. On 3 days, I probably consumed right around 2,200 calories, and 1 day I went over 3,000.
I weight trained only three days a week during the dieting phase. I did my chest, shoulders, back, biceps, and triceps (just a few sets of ten reps for each body part), all in one workout. I’d take a day off and then do a pretty light leg workout, consisting mostly of leg extensions and leg curls. (My back can’t handle heavy squatting all the time, so I was kind of saving my “vertebral stamina” for my serious leg workouts during the anabolic/bulking phase.) I also trained calves and abs on my leg day. My weight-training workouts lasted only about 45 minutes to an hour.

At the end of two weeks of dieting, I hit the scale again. I weighed 199.5 lbs, but what’s really interesting is that my bodyfat dropped from 7.8-7.1% during the whole cycle–the 28-day period. So, I actually gained muscle and lost fat. And, looking in the mirror, I could see it. I had greater vascularity, my abs were more cut, my legs were more striated than they’d been in a long time, but to be honest, I felt “flat.” However, that didn’t last long. Today is the third day of my second bulking cycle, and I swear to God I feel like I’m loading up on Dianabol. Over the past three days, I’ve gained five pounds, and it ain’t fat!
Two mornings ago, I started pigging out again, and I’m guessing I inadvertently created a “carbohydrate-loading” effect. You see, when I was dieting, I kept my carbohydrates very low. For me to lose fat, I gotta stay the hell away from carbs. On my dieting phase, I tried to eat a lot of vegetables, chicken breasts, and salad. About the only carbs I had most days came from my Myoplex Plus shakes and yogurt. My carbohydrate intake was below 100 grams per day. And on the last few days of my diet, I really “tightened the rope” hoping to burn an extra pound of fat before I had my body composition measured again; I took the carbohydrate intake down to below 50 grams a day. Then, when I started bulking up the other morning, the first thing I did was pound down four bowls of frosted Cheerios, with sugar, and I chugged a quart of skim milk! (Them was the best damn Cheerios I ever did have! The milk rocked, too!) My muscles soaked up those carbs fast. By noon that day, I already felt “tighter.”
Torbjorn told me that the second overfeeding cycle could be even more productive than the first. Now I know what he was talking about! (What steroid user could honestly say that his second cycle [if he used the same dose] was more successful than the first one?)
During my workout last night, I felt even bigger and stronger and got more pumped than I did on my last workout during the bulking phase. It’s obvious that something dramatic is happening.
I’ve already got several friends started on this program. One of them, whom I work out with often here at our EAS/Muscle Media corporate gym, is Scott Blankenship, who is in charge of security. On his first bulking phase, he put on 9 solid pounds! He went from 207 to 216 lbs, and his max bench press during that 2-week period alone went from 290 to 315 lbs. The guy had never bench pressed more than 300 lbs in his life, and I personally spotted him when he slammed 315 up like the weight was made out of Styrofoam. On his dieting phase, he ended up losing only four pounds. So, on his first 28-day cycle, he put on 5 solid pounds! He and I are on the same bulking schedule, and he’s gaining size again like crazy, too.

The Bottom Line
As far as I’m concerned, the Anabolic Burst Cycling Program works–big time. At least it did for my first cycle, and the way my second bulking cycle started off, I’m even more convinced there’s something to this. I don’t know how many cycles you can do back to back and continue to make gains. This is something that even my feedback doesn’t give me a feel for yet because this program is so new.
If you’re looking for something new and exciting to spruce up your bodybuilding program, give the Anabolic Burst Cycling Program a try. If you follow the training and nutrition program, which is really not that complicated–even if you mess up a few times like I did, as long as you’re “on” most of the time, you can get there. You don’t have to do it with absolute perfection–just try to follow the program the best you can. My guess is that once you try it, you’ll become a big believer in Anabolic Burst Cycling. But, if you never try it, you’ll never know how much new muscle size and strength it can help you build. Simply reading about the ABCDE Program will not make you a better bodybuilder, believe me! So, get involved–give it a try!

References Cited
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Related links:
– 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 :


– How to BULK UP Fast! (TRUTH about “Bulking and Cutting”) – Athlean-X

– Coach Charles Poliquin’s Take on Bulking Myths

Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise (ABCDE) – Torbjorn Akerfeldt – Part 2

Part 2 of the Anabolic Burst Cycling System:

In the last issue of Muscle Media 2000, I had the pleasure of introducing you to an absolutely fascinating, new nutrition concept developed by a Swedish scientist and bodybuilder named Torbjorn Akerfeldt. That article revealed how going on acute calorie cycles–overfeeding for two weeks, followed by dieting for two weeks–may allow bodybuilders to pack on new muscle size and strength at a phenomenal rate, while not experiencing an increase in bodyfat (the almost unavoidable downside of “megacalorie” nutrition programs). Torbjorn explained the scientific rationale behind this exciting new program. In this article, we’ll explore more of Akerfeldt’s new theories about how to build muscle size and strength.

Bill Phillips: In Part 1 of this feature, we discussed how bodybuilders can increase gains by overfeeding for 14 days and then going on a low-calorie diet for a couple of weeks. Can you briefly review that theory?

Torbjorn Akerfeldt: First of all, I’d like to emphasize that anyone who wants to truly understand Part 2 of this article needs to thoroughly review Part 1. [Part 1 of this article can also be found on page 84 of the March 1997 issue of MM2K. Back issues are available by calling 1-800-297-9776.] Basically, my new program is based on the fundamental principle that the body is simply not very effective in building muscle and burning fat at the same time. There are only a few exceptions to this rule, such as if you’re on supra-physiological doses of anabolic/androgenic steroids or if you’re a beginning bodybuilder with less than a year of training. Beginners’ bodies adapt very efficiently. In experienced trainers, the body is more reluctant to change. There are several mechanisms behind this; i.e., enzymatic, hormonal, metabolic, switching of fiber types, etc.

To overcome this, I have developed the Anabolic Burst Cycling system where, during the first period, you deliberately induce a metabolic environment aimed for anabolic action, followed by a period where you stimulate anti-catabolic mechanisms while focusing on fat loss. One way of doing this is by cycling your calorie intake. Other ways are to cycle the macronutrient ratio of the diet, to apply a variety of training strategies, and to take nutritional supplements. For this to work, it must be done in a coordinated and precise manner. This is what my Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Exercise (ABCDE) program is about. It’s really a way to “trick” the body into putting on muscle while not increasing fat mass over the long term.

BP: As I recall, this theory is backed by some pretty compelling science. Is this correct?

TA: Yes, it is. Scientific studies have shown a significant increase in lean body mass during overfeeding. This is mainly due to a boost in anabolic hormones during the first two weeks of a high-calorie diet. These hormones include testosterone, insulin, and IGF-1, which are released in a perfect ratio for muscle anabolism.7 Not even Dan Duchaine or Michael Mooney on smart drugs could create a more perfect muscle-building stack.

A recent study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when men who were consuming a maintenance-calorie diet went on a high-calorie diet (one providing approximately 1,500 calories more than maintenance), they gained, on average, 4.4 lbs of lean body mass in only 12 days!11 These studies and others support my theory that the body is very efficient at storing extra calories as actin and myosin [constituents of myocytes] in muscle fibers during short-term overfeeding. Some people may argue this increase does not necessarily consist of only skeletal muscle, but one study showed increases in LBM due to overfeeding indeed occurred in skeletal muscle but not in non-muscle LBM.5

BP: But we’re not necessarily talking about the old-fashioned “megacalorie madness” where you pig out for months at a time, right?

TA: No, not at all. High-calorie diets consumed over the long term increase fat as much or more than muscle. This is a mistake bodybuilders have been making for decades. They stay on high-calorie diets–what you refer to as “megacalorie madness”–for too long. The benefits of overfeeding are quickly realized. Prolonged overfeeding leads to a large and undesirable increase in bodyfat. My system is based on acute or “whiplash” calorie cycling. This is a breakthrough for athletes who have struggled to make gains in muscle size and strength–especially experienced trainers who have been stuck at plateaus for a long period of time.

I have experimented with this program myself and have tested it on some of my colleagues, and the results are literally “drug like.” Quite simply, you get big and strong fast! And you don’t get fat!

BP: So basically, when you pig out for two weeks, your body releases testosterone, insulin, and IGF-1 to help deposit or “store” those calories as muscle tissue. Are any other hormones in the body affected by calorie cycling?

TA: Yes, most definitely. One that your readers might recognize is called leptin. This hormone is by far the most interesting one for fat loss. Unfortunately, we develop resistance to this hormone very easily when it is present at chronically [long term] elevated levels.3 However, this will not happen with my system. The high-calorie phase “primes” the effects of leptin, so it’s very effective during the fat-loss/ dieting phase. There is also an increase in T3 [the “active” form of thyroid hormone], adrenaline, and noradrenaline-all help with fat loss.

Going back and forth between low- and high-calorie diets is a fantastic way to keep your anabolic hormones and your lipolytic [fat-burning] hormones and enzymes, as well as receptors primed at all times.

BP: I like what I hear. In Part 1 of our interview, one of the things you talked about that I, quite honestly, didn’t really understand but could tell you felt strongly about was the whole concept of the importance of intramuscular/ intracellular triglyceride levels. How could having fat inside your muscle cells help you gain size and strength?

TA: This is a technically difficult question to answer. But, it’s a very important subject–one you American bodybuilding experts have overlooked.

First of all, intracellular triglycerides are an important source of energy for athletes. A normal, 70-kg [154-lb] man with 15% bodyfat has close to 2 lbs of fat in his muscle cells; half of this is readily available as stored triglycerides. Athletes have an even larger amount of intracellular triglycerides and much more efficient utilization.10 If we extrapolate this for a 220-lb bodybuilder, we’ll come up with 2 lbs of triglycerides. This represents an energy reserve equal to approximately 8,000 calories-that’s more than twice the energy your body stores in glycogen, which virtually everyone believes is the major “muscle fuel” for athletes.

Next, an increase in intracellular triglycerides is a trigger of protein synthesis; i.e., muscle anabolism. In other words, it’s a signal that says, “Hey, we have a steady supply of calories-it’s time to build muscle!” Not to mention high levels of triglycerides within muscle cells increase your pump more than when the cells are full of glycogen alone!

In a nutshell, intracellular triglycerides play a very important role in weight-training-induced muscle growth. They help trigger anabolism, they supply energy for your workouts, they help construct muscle cell membranes, and they have a cell-hydrating/cell-volumizing effect by sparing glycogen. The downside is, high levels of intracellular triglycerides will eventually lead to insulin resistance.

BP: Another thing you mentioned in Part 1 of this interview was something called “bag enlargement,” which apparently has something to do with stretching the connective tissue around muscle fibers in order to enhance growth. How did you come up with this theory?

TA: The “bag theory” is not mine–it was developed by a scientist named D.J. Millward, a well-known researcher who has extensively studied the muscle-building process. His immense knowledge and research could help a lot of bodybuilders. Basically, Millward has observed three things: 1) the almost unlimited extent to which increased food intake can promote protein deposition during “catch-up growth” in malnourished patients, 2) both active and passive stretch will mediate anabolic and anti-catabolic influences, and 3) the cessation of normal muscle growth coincides with the cessation of bone growth.

There are “connective sheets” surrounding the individual muscle fiber [endomysium], bundles of muscle cells [perimysium], and the entire muscle [epimysium]. These sheets can be thought of as a series of “bags” acting to conduct the contractile force generated by actin and myosin in muscle fibers to the bone by the tendon.

Millward postulates that bag filling and enlargement may increase muscle development. You see, these bags have a minimum elasticity, at least compared to the cell membranes they enclose, so they’ll actually inhibit muscle growth–you might think of them as very tight “girdles” that prevent the expansion of tissue.

BP: Doesn’t “cell volumizing” help stretch these bags?

TA: Not really. The anabolic state of the muscle fiber does depend on its state of hydration, which is secondary to the amount of osmotic [the ability to attract water] substances in the cells, such as sodium, potassium, creatine, proteins, glycogen, and free amino acids like glutamine.9 The anabolic phase of my program is designed to maximize this cell-volumizing effect. Within a few days of starting a properly supplemented, high-calorie anabolic phase, your cells will be jam-packed with the aforementioned nutrients and intracellular triglycerides. They’ll be “volumized” to the max. A cell will literally swell to fill the entire space of its connective-tissue compartment or, as Millward calls it, “bag.” You’ll feel “pumped” even when you’re not training.

Interestingly, Millward believes that when this occurs, it will elicit a signal to reduce the appetite–this is just one of many regulatory feedback mechanisms that limit the rate of growth in mammals. This means that a few days into the anabolic/bulking phase of my program, you will probably not have a ferocious appetite, but you must keep eating if you want to grow!

Now, to build extraordinary muscle mass, you need to somehow stretch this “girdle” that confines your muscle tissue. The osmotic gradient over the cell membrane is not strong enough to stretch this tissue all that much; however, the blood rushing into the muscle during resistance training [i.e., the pump] is strong enough to stretch these bags to some extent. This is how “the pump” contributes to muscle growth. It seems, as Arnold and many other famous bodybuilders have reported, the pump is associated with muscle growth. This is very likely due to the compartmental stretching or expansion that is induced by this swelling of muscles while they’re trained and full of blood.

Millward confirms “…a key feature of skeletal muscle growth appears to be that it is limited by connective-tissue growth, which controls myofiber diameter and length.” Somehow you must stretch this connective tissue–this tight girdle around muscle tissue–to experience dramatic muscle growth. This is very important. All bodybuilders must do this.

Show me a “natural” bodybuilder who is big, muscular, and cut, and you will show me a bodybuilder who has either used steroids in the past and/or has been overeating in the past; thus, he increased his potential for muscle growth by stretching the space for myofibers at one time. Once you have already expanded the connective tissue around muscles, you can be natural with a more normal calorie intake while still being relatively big.

This is what “muscle memory” is really all about. People have talked about this for decades in bodybuilding circles. They make the observation that a bodybuilder who was big in the past is able to gain a significant amount of muscle size–let’s say he builds up some muscular 19-inch arms, then he stops training for a few months and loses a lot of mass, and his arms atrophy to 161/2 inches. Whereas the first time it took him years to gain 2 1/2 inches of muscular mass on his arms, this time he’ll be able to add that bulk back in only a couple of months with proper training, nutrition, and supplementation. The explanation for this “muscle-memory phenomenon” is that the connective tissue around the muscle fibers has been previously stretched; thus, rapid growth is possible.

BP: This makes sense. But, if you’ve never had 19-inch arms, how do you get this tissue to stretch?

TA: You have to bulk up at some point. In the past, as we’ve discussed, this usually meant going on prolonged periods of overfeeding, basically turning yourself into a blimp, and then cutting up–going on a brutal diet for months and months. Usually, these long, painful diets caused the loss of almost all the muscle mass you gained during the bulking phase, but they did serve one purpose–they stretched the connective tissue around the muscles.

We know that to maximize muscle growth we need to make sure the cell is properly hydrated and volumized. This is accomplished during the overfeeding phase of my Anabolic Burst Cycling program. Next, you need to get a good, solid pump during the workout and, beyond that, if you’re looking for greater growth, you can now apply extreme stretching while being pumped.

The American bodybuilding coach John Parillo has made the same observation I have–that extreme stretching when the muscle is pumped, which he refers to as “fascia stretching,” results in increased muscular growth. Research at Ohio State University also demonstrates that the amount of myosin heavy chains–a very important contractile protein in skeletal muscle–is increased by stretching.1 The result is obvious within a short period of time. Parillo’s theory is that you stretch the fascia around the muscle which, according to him, is limiting muscle growth. However, research supports the idea that the endomysium and perimysium are involved in this limitation of growth–not necessarily the fascia.

What we are basically trying to do is further remodel that encumbering girdle around muscle tissue by stretching. This theory beautifully explains the perfect coordination between the lengthening of the skeleton–and thus a passive stretch of the connective tissue in muscle–and the increased muscle bulk in fast-growing teenagers. This is something few people think about, but when a teenager goes through rapid bone growth and experiences a dramatic increase in muscle mass during puberty, the muscle hypertrophy usually ends when the bones stop growing. Millward has documented that lean body mass increases in direct proportion to height in normal human beings.

Some “old-time” body-builders performed exercises with extreme stretching while they were pumped. I’m not sure how they figured out this was important, but some did. One of them was Arnold. He would perform dumbbell flyes on a flat bench in a relatively slow, high-rep manner after completely pumping up his chest. He could lower the dumbbells until they almost touched the floor! That’s a brutal stretch. Was it a coincidence that Arnold built what was unarguably one of the most well-developed pair of pecs ever, in a day and age when steroid use was “minuscule” compared to what today’s champs are using? I think not. Arnold used to really stretch out his lats while doing low rowing and high-cable pulldowns, too. And, he did pullovers which are an amazingly effective stretching exercise that you American lifters seem to have forgotten about.

You can stretch during your lifts and between them. But, I only recommend extreme stretching during the second week of the bulking phase of my system. This is when the muscles will get incredibly pumped, and recuperation will be maximal. The stretch-induced fusion and increased nuclei number peak within a week.15 This is one of the reasons to limit the use of extreme stretching to one week.

Another stimulus for remodeling is the breakdown of connective tissue during eccentric training. I recommend your readers review Charles Poliquin’s article on this subject in the January 1996 issue of MM2K ( The Science of Eccentric Training) and your article on this topic in the April 1996 issue ( A Sure Thing in a World of Confusion).

IndentationBy the way, to support the formation of new connective tissue after you’ve damaged it by pumping up and stretching, I would recommend that you take at least one gram of Vitamin C before your workouts and make sure your total daily intake is at least three grams. There is evidence that Vitamin C not only supports hydroxylation in collagen synthesis but also works almost as a growth factor in the synthesis of connective tissue.8

IndentationAnyway, through proper eccentric training and stretching while being pumped, you will damage the connective tissue and force it to further remodel into a “larger bag.” The stretching of the fiber will stimulate membrane-bound enzyme complexes which will trigger a release of growth factors such as TGF-beta, FGF, and IGF-1 from the muscle.13 These growth factors are all important for remodeling and synthesis of connective tissue. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this interview, IGF-1 and FGF stimulate the development of satellite cells and their fusion with muscle fibers to deliver nuclei, thus, new muscle mass, so long as the inner environment is optimal, which it is during the end of the anabolic phase.

Millward’s theory, combined with my Anabolic Burst Cycling theory, beautifully explains what happens during puberty. To start with, there is an increase in testosterone and growth hormone. This, together with intracellular triglycerides, as mentioned earlier, will increase the amount of insulin the body releases. Insulin is the main factor responsible for transporting osmotic substances, such as glucose, amino acids, and creatine, into muscle fibers, which is why people are seeing such great results while taking creatine monohydrate with an insulin-releasing carbohydrate. Hence, the muscle will swell. At the same time, growth hormone is contributing to an increase in bone length; thus, a passive stretch is placed on the muscle with local IGF-1 being released. Since both GH and its insulin levels are elevated, IGF-1 production in the liver is stimulated, which adds further growth to the whole body. Are you beginning to get the picture?

During the anabolic phase of my ABCDE system, we mimic the mechanisms of pubescent metabolism. You may think I’m nagging about puberty, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of trying to replicate this natural phenomenon. During puberty, you put on muscle, even without training, and on top of that, you keep this muscle for virtually your whole life. That’s the type of quality growth that’s possible with my new system.

BP: So when I’m on the bulking phase of your program, my muscles are being pumped full of nutrients and fluid, so when I work out, I’ll get pumped up like I’m on ‘roids. And, to maximize growth during this phase, I should stretch a lot during my exercises and between them, while I’m pumped. During the second week of the bulking phase, days 7-14, I should really stretch hard and do very intense eccentric reps [negatives]. And, during this time, I might benefit from taking a gram of Vitamin C before I work out and taking a total of three grams a day.

TA: Yes. Very good, Bill.

BP: Do I need to stretch and do negatives or take Vitamin C during the cutting phase?

TA: No. During the low-calorie phase, we are not trying to remodel connective tissue. The emphasis is on fat burning. Of course–for other reasons–one gram of Vitamin C daily or moderate stretching could be useful during the “non-remodeling” phase. Intense negatives, on the other hand, must be avoided.

BP: Let’s talk more about some of the specific details of your program. It seems that alternating between low- and high-calorie diet phases is basically the cornerstone of this system. How many calories are we talking about during each phase?

TA: In my upcoming book, I will go into great detail about this. But as a guideline, a place to start, for the high-calorie phase, someone like you, who has relatively low bodyfat and weighs around 200 lbs, will probably need to eat around 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day. You eat like this for 14 days in a row. Each person will need some adjustments to this number. Since I understand you sit at a desk 12 hours a day, you may need only 4,000. During the dieting/fat-loss phase, you would eat about half this much.

This is just a rough place to start–a person’s activity level [whether someone has a desk job or is a construction worker could make a big difference] and a person’s muscle mass and metabolism also come into play. If a bodybuilder is following this recommendation and not gaining weight during the bulking phase, I would recommend increasing calorie intake by 500 calories a day, for a week, and if a substantial weight gain is not realized, I would take it up another 500 calories the next week. If you’re working out hard, you should be gaining three pounds a week on the bulking phase.

Likewise, if someone is not losing bodyweight on the low-calorie phase, I would recommend decreasing calorie intake by 300 calories a day, per week.

Remember that each time you start an anabolic phase, you may need to increase your calorie intake, as long as you’re gaining lean body mass. For example, if you go from 190 to 195 lbs during your first anabolic and fat-burning cycle, you should add about 100 more calories to your diet per day for the next cycle.

BP: Now I understand that supplements like creatine, chromium, and HMB are some of the other supplements you’ve experimented with. What types of supplements should someone use, and how should they use them, when following your Anabolic Burst Cycling program?

TA: Because this area has not been extensively studied, there’s really no concrete data available that tells us exactly how various supplements such as creatine monohydrate, chromium, vanadyl sulfate, etc. work while a person is on a high- or low-calorie diet. The literature offers very little to the scientist who is interested in what type of additive effects and/or synergy might be created by using supplements in a “stacking” manner. Of course, the science of supplements which enhance performance, muscle metabolism, and fat oxidation is in its infancy. I want to make sure I preface any discussion about supplements with this information because we are largely speculating. Dan Duchaine, Dr. Mauro DiPasquale, and you, Bill, are all familiar with the various supplements bodybuilders might benefit from, but you all have different theories on how those compounds should be taken. Some of these ideas come from your own personal experiences, some come from empirical [word of mouth] data, and some come from extrapolations of scientific literature. Suffice it to say, at this point we have no “proof” there is a completely right or wrong way to use supplements. What I will touch on here and discuss in more detail in future MM2K articles is an outline of my own theories of how the use of various supplements may enhance the effects of the Anabolic Burst Cycling system.

As you might have already guessed, my theory on supplement use is somewhat parallel to my theory on nutrition–variety is paramount. However, “random shotgunning” or taking supplements with no rhyme or reason is not the best plan either.

I believe a person can maximize the effects of supplements as well as save money by cycling supplements.

In Sweden, a bottle of 120 capsules of HMB costs $65! You Americans should feel lucky! I have to “ration” my supplement use as I am not made of money.

Nutritional supplements may act in a manner similar to drugs in that the body might adapt and eventually “override” their effects, just as it would to certain drugs. The body adapts to virtually everything, which is why, if you don’t want to stay the same–if you want to grow–you have to constantly change things. An analogy between supplements and drugs can be made. For example, taking an antibiotic for two weeks to treat an infection is often effective. However, you cannot prevent infections by taking an antibiotic every single day for months and months. The compound would become ineffective. The same can be said of many drugs, and this may be true of supplements, too.

Now, as far as supplements go, I would say creatine monohydrate is the most important supplement during my Anabolic Burst Cycling program. It is virtually impossible to consume the optimal amounts of creatine through whole foods; thus, a supplement is required. My experiments lead me to theorize that creatine can be cycled. I use 20 to 30 grams per day during the first 6 days of a bulking phase, and then I repeat this at a lower dose of 10 grams a day for the first week of the dieting phase. By taking creatine, you fill up the myocyte, which is also known as a muscle fiber or a muscle cell, with creatine phosphate and potentiate cell volumizing. At the same time, new studies show creatine might improve insulin sensitivity and blood lipid profiles.6

As I mentioned, insulin sensitivity is a crucial factor for bodybuilders–both for improving body composition and maintaining proper health. Several supplements may be effective for increasing insulin sensitivity and glycogen storage. These include chromium, vanadyl sulfate, and certain fatty acids. Studies with diabetic patients involving vanadyl sulfate show that the compound continues to exert a positive effect for at least two weeks after its use has been discontinued.4 Having this in mind, I recommend using vanadyl sulfate and chromium in a cycling pattern.

One supplement that you don’t hear much about, but which I think could be valuable to bodybuilders, is sodium phosphate–the mineral form is called phosphorus. It is inexpensive but sometimes difficult to find. I suggest giving it a try, in a loading manner, for four days, consuming three or four grams a day. Several studies have shown that phosphate used this way increases both anaerobic and aerobic performance.2,12,14 How-ever, I recommend phosphate in my program because if you are deficient in intracellular phosphate during the heavy eccentric-training portion and extreme stretching–which should be conducted during the second week of the bulking phase–you may have inefficient recovery. [By the way, Phosphagen HP is fortified with phosphates.]

Furthermore, intracellular phosphate is used to create creatine phosphate and for the formation of phospholipids to meet the need for substrates of the plasma membrane of expanding muscle fibers. Another important property of phosphate is that it is the most important intracellular buffer; i.e., it will reduce the metabolic acidosis caused by intense exercise. Acidosis enhances protein breakdown and suppresses the effectiveness of growth hormone and IGF-1. In contrast, reducing the acidosis in the blood–some experts propose with bicarbonate–is probably not a good idea since there are indications that a low pH extracellularly interferes with the anabolic signal for rebuilding the damaged myocyte.

Conjugated linoleic acid [CLA], a supplement which I have experimented with, may be incorporated into a cell membrane, thereby increasing the inflow of nutrients. I’ll discuss this interesting area in our next article. There is also evidence that HMB has a similar ability. Both CLA and HMB may increase the amount of intracellular triglycerides, which is good so long as you can keep insulin sensitivity high. Glutamine may also play an important role in my program. Alpha-lipoic acid may have some interesting bodybuilding applications, too. HCA could also elicit a nice response in some individuals. The reason behind this is that the hypercaloric diet will eventually increase the activity of fat-storing enzymes making the conversion of carbohydrates to fat very effective. This could partly be blocked by using HCA during the last days of the anabolic phase. If you’re over 35, you may also need to supplement with selenium since it’s been shown that the age- related decrease in thyroid function is attenuated by selenium. I’ll talk more about these topics in Part 3 of this feature.


Wow! This really is fascinating stuff–I’ve been following bodybuilding for 16 years, and to be honest, I’ve never found bodybuilding nutrition to be that exciting of a topic; that is, until now. Torbjorn Akerfeldt’s revolutionary theories in this area have convinced me there is more to optimal nutrition than meets the eye–more to it than simply eating a high-protein diet and consuming more calories for a period of months if you want to bulk up and dieting for weeks and weeks if you want to get cut. This is exciting news for all bodybuilders–especially those of us who are training drug free and are looking for any advantage we can get–especially one that’s safe and legal!

If you give this program a try, keep track of exactly how it works for you–chart your bodyweight, bodyfat percentage, strength, etc., and write to me and let me know how much muscle you gain. I’ll pass your feedback, and mine, along in Part 3 of this feature, which will appear in the next issue of Muscle Media 2000! In this upcoming article, we’ll talk more about nutrition, supplements, exercise, and Torbjorn’s theory on “protein cycling,” which I guarantee you’ll find fascinating!

Taking the Anabolic Burst Cycling
System for a Test Drive

By Bill Phillips

Like many of you, I found Torbjorn Akerfeldt’s theories very exciting, and I’ve been eager to give them a try. I’ve carefully analyzed his ideas and the science which supports them, and I’ve proceeded to custom design a nutrition, training, and supplementation program for my first “trial run” of the Anabolic Burst Cycling system.

In Torbjorn’s forthcoming book, he’ll go into great detail about micro-nutrition and supplement cycles that he is designing to maximize the effects of this program. All these intricacies will be spelled out in his book, but for now, based on my knowledge of his theories, I have put together a program which I think will help me gain new size and strength, without getting fat. Here’s my plan:

The Bulking Phase


I’m going to start this system by consuming 1,500 more calories per day than my maintenance energy requirements. My body burns only around 2,400-2,800 calories a day because I’m not very active. I basically sit behind a desk all day and then work out for an hour. I probably burn fewer calories each day than those of you who take part in a lot of recreational sports, have physically demanding jobs, etc. Anyway, for me, 2,400-2,800 calories a day is my maintenance intake. So, I’m going to consume around 4,000-4,200 calories per day to start with. If I don’t put on at least three pounds the first week, I’ll go up to about 4,700 calories a day the second week. My plan is to consume 6 meals every day, each with about 500 to 800 calories.

Protein, Carbs, and Fat:

Torbjorn believes that on the bulking phase, a 20% protein, 50% carb, and 30% fat macronutrient profile will work well. I think I’ll go with a bit more protein, but Torbjorn emphasizes that a relatively high level of carbs consumed while bulking will maximize insulin output and help promote anabolism. An example of what I’m planning for an average day on my bulking diet is indicated in the chart below.

Example of My Daily Nutrition Program

During the Bulking Phase

&nbsp &nbsp Protein
7:30 a.m. One bowl of oatmeal
16 oz skim milk
Omelet with 2 whole eggs plus 8 egg whites
One whole grapefruit
One gram of Vitamin C
10:00 a.m. Myoplex Plus Deluxe mixed
with 16 oz skim milk
One serving of Phosphagen HP




Noon Cheeseburger with 6 oz of lean ground beef,
lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise.
16 oz of water




3:30 p.m. Myoplex Plus Deluxe with 16 oz skim milk 58 49 3 469
5:00 p.m. PR Bar
One gram of Vitamin C
6:00 p.m. Workout
7:00 p.m. Two servings of Phosphagen HP 70 280
8:30 p.m. Four chicken enchiladas with rice
16 oz of water
10:30 p.m. Two bowls of frosted Cheerios,
12 oz of skim milk
One gram of Vitamin C
&nbsp TOTALS 317 516 110 4355


As far as workouts go, I plan to do only weightlifting during the bulking phase–no aerobics. I’m going to train four times a week, lifting as much weight as possible for relatively low reps. For example, for chest, after a few warm-up sets on the flat barbell bench, I’m going to do 5 sets of between 3 and 8 repetitions with 275 to 325 lbs. Then I’m going to do dumbbell flyes–four sets of five to eight reps, using as much weight as I possibly can yet incorporating a deep stretch into the movement. And I’m going to hit the eccentric (negative) hard, especially during the second week of each bulking phase. I’ll finish my chest work with 2 sets of pullovers, using moderate weight for 10 to 12 reps. I plan to rest a full three minutes between sets, so I’ll recover my strength and can lift heavy.

As Torbjorn explained in this article, it is important to stretch the connective tissue around muscle cells as much as possible while bulking up. I’ll do this by stretching between exercises and actually doing as much stretching as I can during exercises. For example, on the lat pulldown and the low-pulley row, I’ll really stretch out the lats. On exercises like the dumbbell triceps extension, I’ll lower the weight as far as I can behind my head and really extend those muscles, and on exercises like the dumbbell preacher curl, I’ll extend the biceps muscles and stretch them out, all the way.


As far as supplements go, during the anabolic phase, I’m going to have three or four servings of Phosphagen HP a day (I’ll drink two right after I work out) to increase insulin output and creatine uptake by my muscle cells. I’m also going to use chromium and vanadyl sulfate in an effort to maximize insulin’s anabolic actions.
Insulin is one of the main anabolic agents in this “hormone cocktail” that is elevated when you start overfeeding. I’ll get the chromium and the vanadyl from the total-nutrition supplement I’ll be using, which is Myoplex Plus Deluxe. I’m also going to supplement with three grams of Vitamin C a day during this bulking phase.

The Cutting Phase


After two weeks of overfeeding, I’m going to “shift gears” and go on a low-calorie diet. Because I’ll be trying to lose fat at a very rapid pace during this two-week cutting period, I’ll need to create a significant energy deficit. I think I’ll have to go down to around 1,600-1,800 calories a day for 14 days in order to accomplish my objective. Basically, I’m going to starve my ass off. I plan to eat small meals often throughout the day.

Protein, Carbs, and Fat:

During the cutting phase, I’m going to reduce my carbohydrate intake substantially. I’ll be consuming a diet that will be around 40-45% protein, 40-45% carbs, and 10-20% fat.

An example of what an average day’s food intake might be on the low-calorie phase is shown below.

Example of My Daily Nutrition Program

During the Cutting Phase

&nbsp &nbsp Protein
7:00 a.m. 200 mg caffeine, 25 mg ephedrine,
300 mg aspirin
(on aerobic training days only)
7:30 a.m. 30 minutes aerobics on stationary bike
9:00 a.m. Myoplex Plus with 16 oz of water
mixed with one serving of BetaGen
11:00 a.m. Fat-free yogurt
16 oz of water


12:00 p.m. One grilled, skinless chicken breast
One medium-sized baked potato
with 2 Tbsp ketchup
16 oz of water


3:00 p.m. Myoplex Plus with 16 oz of water
mixed with one serving of BetaGen
6:30 p.m. Weight-training workout
7:30 p.m. One serving of BetaGen mixed with
one serving of CytoVol


8:00 p.m. 4 oz grilled salmon
Salad with fat-free dressing
Steamed vegetables
16 oz of water


10:30 p.m. Fat-free yogurt
One serving of BetaGen mixed with
one serving of CytoVol


&nbsp TOTALS 194 178 17 1707


Four days a week I’m going to try to do a minimum of 20 minutes (but hopefully as much as 30 or 40 minutes) of aerobic exercise, on an empty stomach in the morning, to accelerate fat loss. After I work out, I’ll wait about an hour before I eat (my body will continue to burn fat for fuel at an accelerated rate after exercise). By then, I’ll probably have to eat–I’ll be starving.

During this phase, I’m going to train with weights only three days a week, doing moderate weight, relatively high reps, and relatively low intensity.

My goal during this two-week period is to get rid of bodyfat while maintaining muscle mass. This phase is not about stretching the connective tissue or gaining muscle, so I’m not going to exaggerate the stretching components on my exercises, nor am I going to work very hard on the eccentric reps. This is not the time for beating up my muscles–protein synthesis will probably be down during this phase, and recovery will be difficult. I plan to work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for about 45 minutes with weights and do completely different exercises than I did during the bulking phase. And, like I said, I don’t plan to really push it that hard.


Because I know caffeine can stimulate the release of fatty acids for use as fuel, especially in a fasted state, as soon as I get out of bed on the mornings I’m going to be doing aerobic exercise, I plan to take 200 mg of caffeine, 25 mg of ephedrine, and one aspirin. (This is a potent fat-burning stack which works well for a lot of lifters but one which Torbjorn does not “endorse” because these are considered serious drugs in Sweden. And as a medical professional, he does not believe in the self-administration of any drugs. I have used caffeine and ephedrine before, and I tolerate them well.)

I also plan to use BetaGen (EAS’ new creatine and HMB formula) and CytoVol (EAS’ new Glutamine Preservation System). Because my primary goal during the dieting phase is to lose fat while attempting to minimize the loss of muscle tissue, the use of anti-catabolic supplements like glutamine and HMB is important. I’m going to use BetaGen instead of Phosphagen HP during the dieting phase because I’ll be trying to keep my insulin levels relatively low and stable. (Phosphagen HP contains a good dose of carbs. BetaGen is virtually carb free.) After two straight weeks of consuming Phosphagen HP, my muscles are going to be jam-packed with creatine. I don’t think they’ll be able to hold any more, and consuming a maintenance dose during the fat-loss phase will ensure that my muscles don’t start losing stored creatine and suffer a loss of cell volume during the dieting period.

Creatine is one supplement I would not discontinue–I just don’t see any reason for it. Dr. Paul Greenhaff’s data from Nottingham University clearly shows that when you stop taking creatine, your muscle cells’ creatine concentrations return to normal–you lose the advantage it offers. I would no sooner cut creatine out of my diet than I would protein, vitamins and minerals, etc. However, I think there is some justification for cycling other supplements, and I think it makes sense to use more creatine when your cells are really starting to swell, like during the bulking phase. And, I don’t necessarily think it’s a must to use HMB during the bulking phase–but I do think it can be a huge benefit during the cutting cycle. Dr. Steve Nissen’s research on HMB shows it has significant protein-sparing/ anti-catabolic effects, and it may accelerate fat loss.

Throughout the program, I’m going to drink ample amounts of water–at least 80 to 100 oz a day.

The Goal: Get Bigger!

My goal is to put on six or seven pounds of bodyweight during the bulking phase which is a lot for me, considering I’ve been training for many years. According to the Anabolic Burst Cycling theory, if I do everything right, two-thirds of the weight I gain should be lean mass. During the cutting phase, I’m going to try to lose all of the fat mass I gained during the bulking phase, while hopefully retaining most of the muscle. Then, I’m going to immediately go back on another bulking phase. From what I hear, the second bulking cycle, after your body has been “primed” by a strict two-week dieting period, is when it really hits you–you notice your muscles getting drastically bigger and stronger. I’m looking forward to that!

I’ll check my bodyfat and scale weight each week to gauge my body composition alterations and develop a chart like Torbjorn’s in Part 1 of this series.


This particular program is my personal version of the Anabolic Burst Cycling system. It is not Torbjorn Akerfeldt’s exact recommendation. He has a few things he does differently–things he’ll discuss in his upcoming book on this topic. But, I know many of you, like myself, are ready to take this system for a “test drive,” so I thought I’d share my plan with you. I’m excited about it, and I think it’s going to work great. But, who knows, I might be wrong. I’m going to give it my best shot and fill you in on all the details. It might take a little trial and error to get things fine-tuned, but I’ve got a logical starting point and a system I think I can live (and grow!) with. And, it’s a system I would recommend you try also.

By the time you read this, my first Anabolic Burst Cycle will be well underway. In the next issue of Muscle Media 2000, I’ll give you the exact details on how it’s working for me, and I’ll pass along specific feedback from other Muscle Media 2000 readers who have already started this program.

References Cited

1 E.R. Blough, et al., “Developmental Myosin Expression in Fast Quail Muscle After Wing Weighting and Unweighting,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 27.5 (1995) : S142.

2 R. Cade, et al., “Effects of Phosphate Loading on 2,3-Diphosphoglycerate and Maximal Oxygen Uptake,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 16.3 (1984) : 263-268.

3 J.K. Caro, et al., “Decreased Cerebrospinal-Fluid/Serum Leptin Ratio in Obesity: A Possible Mechanism for Leptin Resistance,” Lancet 348.9021 (1996) : 159-161.

4 N. Cohen, et al., “Oral Vanadyl Sulfate Improves Hepatic and Peripheral Insulin Sensitivity in Patients with Non-Insulin-Dependent Diabetes Mellitus,” Journal of Clinical Investigation 95.6 (1995) : 2501-2509.

5 O. Dériaz, et al., “Lean-Body-Mass Composition and Resting Energy Expenditure Before and After Long-Term Overfeeding,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 56.1 (1992) : 840-847.

6 C.P. Earnest, et al., “High-Performance Capillary Electrophoresis-Pure Creatine Monohydrate Reduces Blood Lipids in Men and Women,” Clinical Science 91 (1996) : 113-118.

7 G.B. Forbes, et al., “Hormonal Response to Overfeeding,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 49.4 (1989) : 608-611.

8 J.C. Gessin, “Regulation of Collagen Synthesis in Human Dermal Fibroblasts in Contracted Collagen Gels by Ascorbic Acid, Growth Factors, and Inhibit of Lipid Peroxidation,” Experimental Cell Research 206.2 (1996) : 283-290.

9 D. Häussinger, “The Role of Cellular Hydration in the Regulation of Cell Function,” Journal of Biochemistry 313 (1996) : 697-710.

10 H. Hoppeler, et al., “The Ultrastructure of the Normal Human Skeletal Muscle: A Morphometric Analysis on Untrained Men, Women and Well Trained Orienteers,” European Journal of Applied Physiology (Germany, West) 344.3 (1973) : 217-232.

11 S.A. Jebb, et al., “Changes in Macronutrient Balance During Over- and Underfeeding Assessed by 12-Day Continuous Whole-Body Calorimetry,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 64.3 (1996) : 259-266.

12 R.B. Kreider, et al., “Effects of Phosphate Loading on Metabolic and Myocardial Responses to Maximal and Endurance Exercise,” International Journal of Sports Nutrition 2.1 (1992) : 20-47.

13 D.J. Millward, et al., “A Protein-stat Mechanism for Regulation of Growth and Maintenance of the Lean Body Mass,” Nutrition Research Review 8 (1995) : 93-120.

14 L. Stewart, et al., “Phosphate Loading and Effects on VO2max in Trained Cyclists,” Research Quarterly 61 (1990) : 80-84.

15 P.K. Winchester, et al., “Satellite Cell Activation in the Stretch-Enlarged Anterior Latissimus Dorsi Muscle of the Adult Quail,” American Journal of Physiology 260.2 (1991) : C206-212.

Related links:
– 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 :


– How to BULK UP Fast! (TRUTH about “Bulking and Cutting”) – Athlean-X

– Coach Charles Poliquin’s Take on Bulking Myths

The Power Of A Refeed And Leptin! – By: Shannon Clark

The Power Of A Refeed And Leptin!
By: Shannon Clark

The power of a refeed can help improve your situation especially if you have low leptin levels and a slower metabolism. Learn more about both right here and see if you can’t get your metabolism back up to speed.

Been dieting for a while and not seeing any results? Feel like your starving all the time but meanwhile fat loss is a foreign word to you. If you are finding yourself in this situation, you are likely suffering the consequences of low leptin levels.


Leptin, part of the cytokine family, is synthesized primarily by your adipose tissue, with a small contribution coming from the skeletal muscles and brain. The synthesis rate of leptin is mostly controlled by both numbers of body fat cells as well as size of your current bodyfat cells.

Leptin’s main function in the body is to play a significant role in regulating both hunger, food intake and energy expenditure. As leptin levels fall, the greater your cravings become for all those wonderful foods that you used to eat when you weren’t dieting.

So if you are experiencing more intense cravings on a daily basis, take some relief in knowing that this is actually your body responding to a physiological signal, not just your mind playing nasty games with you and making your life miserable.

Along with hunger pangs, leptin also signifies a slowing metabolism. Whenever you are on a hypocalorie diet for an extended period of time, your body will begin to slow its metabolic functions in an effort to ‘make due’ with the amount of fuel that it is being given. Know what this means for you? Little or no fat loss. Not a good situation.

Raising Leptin Levels:

So, your goal is to periodically kick your leptin levels back up so as to avoid the intense physical hunger and the slowed-to-a-crawl metabolism. Some people will chose to have cheat days in an effort to accomplish this goal, which is basically a meal or whole day of professed binging on everything in sight.

This may not be the best course of action however. Leptin is highly responsive to glucose metabolism so when doing a refeed, you will benefit much more if the majority of your excess calories are coming from good sources of carbohydrates that will turn into glucose. When done this way, leptin levels will show a significant rise over if you had eaten a surplus of calories coming from more protein, fat, or fructose.


How much should you refeed yourself? This will depend on how long you have been dieting, how intense your diet is, and your current level of bodyfat. Those who are at a lower level of bodyfat will need to refeed more often than those who aren’t. Similarly, the more extreme the diet being followed, the more intense the refeed.

Basically this has to do with how low leptin levels are. The lower the levels, the more calories above maintenance you will be needed to bring them back up.

Usually, a refeed should consist of 20-50% more calories than required for maintenance for 12 hours to two days. The higher you decide to bring your calories, the shorter period of time you will want to refeed for. If your leptin levels have almost dropped of the earth, you will want to refeed for a full week, but keep your calories slightly more moderate.

The downside to a refeed is that sometimes you will have to accept a small amount of fat gain. But, looking on the bright side, when you go back to your diet, your metabolism will be humming again and you should jump start the fat loss process. In a few individuals, they will actually become leaner during the process; however this is not the norm.

You can include some of your more desired foods in the refeed, after all, this is partly to relieve you psychologically from the restraints you feel during the dieting process, however make sure the rest is coming from good sources.

Hormonal Profile:

Another advantage to increasing leptin levels is that it will promote a more positive hormonal profile. When dieting, males experience a decreased testosterone level, which I’m sure you know makes maintaining muscle mass particularly difficult.

When you increase leptin levels you will be increasing liver glycogen, which will drive up testosterone, along with growth hormone and t3 while reducing cortisol, the catabolic hormone. This will put you in a much better position to realize your fat loss goals then the stalled position you were in earlier.

Female Leptin Levels:

Females should take particular caution when dealing with leptin levels as a halt in reproduction hormones can occur when leptin gets low enough. This is shown through the stoppage of menstruation, commonly experienced by those in the bodybuilding/fitness realm.

This is very dangerous, as females who go long enough in this state risk a whole host of problems such as decreased bone mass and density along with a risk of osteoporosis. Therefore, women should be refeeding on a regular basis to ensure this does not become an issue.

Immune Function:

Another health benefit that comes out of a refeed is increased immune function. The longer and harder we diet, the more stress we place on our body and the more we risk getting an illness. Without adequate calories, the immune system cannot perform up to par and therefore cannot fight of invading organisms as well.

If you are finding that you are constantly getting sick and aren’t really showing signs of getting better, this could be a good indication it’s time for more calories.

Take It Easy:

One final note should be made that on the days of a refeed you should not increase your workout volume at all or else you will be partly defeating the purpose of this process. It may be psychologically tempting, you may think you should try and burn off all these extra calories, however by doing this you will just set yourself back further and won’t accomplish much.

Try and take it easy and let your muscles suck up all these extra nutrients, storing them for later use and getting your metabolism back running.


When you see a drastic improvement the following week – once you resume your training and diet plan – you will be convinced that refeeds aren’t a scary thing and are absolutely necessary if you hope to achieve all your goals.


1. Leptin: The Next Big Thing I. Par Deus.