Conventional bodybuilding wisdom has it that eating a gram or so of protein a day is ideal for eliciting muscle growth. While this simple formula has been borne out as true my many thousands of bodybuilders, there may be a better way.
By now you probably know that cycling your workouts can yield good results and that cycling carbs is a great way to get lean. How many of you, however, have tried cycling protein? Well maybe you should.
Although you will certainly get excellent results by eating 1 g of protein for each pound of bodyweight, research shows that you may get even better results from cycling your protein consumption. Here's a protein-cycling program that you can follow for 14 days at a time.
STAGE ONE | For five days, eat less protein than usual. Contrary to popular belief, a bodybuilder won't shrivel up overnight if he takes in slightly less protein (0.7-0.8 g per pound of bodyweight; see "Protein-Cycling Schedule"). In fact, the body responds at first by shifting its metabolism to slow the loss of protein.
In essence, when you eat less protein, your body quickly adapts and slows the rate at which protein is broken down. Slowing protein breakdown is a classic anticatabolic effect. Anticatabolism, or "muscle protection," is half the battle in supporting muscle growth.
In theory, if you could induce an around-the-clock anticatabolic state, you'd grow like a weed. Temporarily decreasing your protein intake encourages just that--a strong muscle-preservation state.
STAGE TWO | Boost protein consumption after five days. In stage one, eating less protein caused a release of enzymes to ramp up anticatabolism. Now, after five days in that lower-protein state, switch gears. The additional protein, in the presence of enzymes that are slowing the breakdown of protein, can result in the "hyperstorage" of protein in muscles.
Also, a change in protein intake from less to more triggers a strong increase in protein synthesis, a buildup of new muscle tissue.
In stage two, consume 1.5-1.75 g of protein per pound of bodyweight each day (see chart). Do this for nine days during the two-week cycle. This is long enough for the body to benefit from a hyperanabolic state, an enzymatic environment that is favorable to rebuilding.
FINALLY | If you want to try protein cycling, follow the ranges of daily protein consumption listed in the chart. At times when you are not protein cycling, stick with the gold standard: 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.
Protein cycling may give you a slight advantage, but adhering to the basic FLEX protein recommendation will also help to ensure that you're feeding your muscles all they need for continued growth.