Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet & Exercise (ABCDE)

This diet is a very interesting concept I have known for a while, but doesn’t get the attention it deserves by bodybuilders. The diet was developed by swedish bodybuilder and doctor Torbjorn Akerfeldt based on some research he found. Unlike traditional bodybuilding bulking diets centered mainly around protein, this diet looks at total calories instead.

Anabolic Burst Cycling is actually a simple concept, it's hormone manipulation through calorie cycling. Simply eat an excess calories for 2 weeks, then for 2 weeks diet. You continually do this over and over. With each cycle, you should have a positive net lean muscle gain and fat loss. Protein intake or eating clean also isn't as important as total calorie intake. In other words a dirty bulk is ok, just as long as you get a calorie excess.

Why does Anabolic burst cycling work?

One study Akerfeldt cites to support his diet is published in (Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Sep;64(3):259-66). I decided to take a look at the study. It was done for 3 weeks on men and women volunteers. They increased their calorie intake and it was observed that they had an increase in testosterone, IGF-1, and insulin. There were no changes in T4 or cortisol or adrenaline. There was an average of 4.3 kilograms of weight gained, with 46% of it being muscle. Note that these subjects did not weight train, yet still gained over 4 lbs of lean mass.

You may be wondering how muscle is gained and fat lost, from doing this diet. The answer is really all in hormone level manipulation. When you eat an excess of calories, your testosterone levels, growth hormone, IGF-1, insulin, all the anabolic hormones go crazy. During this time you can eat a lot of extra calories and gain a lot of muscle with less worry of fat, because the anabolic hormone spike helps build muscle. This anabolic hormone spike starts to taper off over time as the body adapts, which is why you only do it for 2 weeks.

Another study that Akerfeldt uses to help support him was published in (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 49.4 (1989) : 608-611). Looking at the study, it was done on 6 men who ate a excess in calories. They measured their fat and protein oxidation, but they also observed over 4lbs of muscle gained with only 2 lbs of fat gained. This study is even more substantial, since without weight training, they gained muscle 2:1 ratio.

Why does Akerfeldt seem to think getting excess calories is the most important? Well he cites this study published in J. Nutr. 109.3 (1979) : 363-377. This study is also done on 6 men over 10 days. These subjects were all given equal amounts of protein(1.2 grams/kg), but they were seperated into 3 groups; maintenance, 15% above maintenance, and 30% above maintenance. When increased and lowered, they found a correlation between the total intake of calories and Biological value and net protein utilization of the dietary protein.

The bulking phase also increases your metabolism (by increasing thyroid hormones) and leptin levels. This will make it easier to lose fat immediately after the bulking phase. Once again, you can only do the fat loss phase for 2 weeks before your body starts adapting to the fat loss phase hormonally. The whole point of the diet is to manipulate hormones in such a way to keep the body guessing, that is favorable for bodybuilders.

Torbjorn Akerfeldt is also a firm believer in the muscle fascia stretching theory and believes it could be beneficial during the bulking phase. You can read more about it in a previous article of ours: Muscle fascia stretching

So we don't need to workout to see muscle gains?

If you never lifted a weight in your life you could probably gain a few lbs of muscle from this diet, like some did in the studies. But a serious bodybuilder is not going to gain significant muscle with this diet long term, without the help of weight training.

Who is this ABCDE program for?

The program is for everyone, but I have read other hardgainers complain that the diet phase was too catabolic and they lost their hard earned muscle. That just means to me, that bodybuilders with a fast metabolism, should probably do a shorter fat loss phase, like 5 days to one week. One other problem about this diet, is that it is very hard to do. It is hard to adapt to eating a massive amount of calories, and then trying to diet soon after. Trying to yoyo back between each phase is probably the major reason why this diet has never become popular among bodybuilders.

Stubborn Fat Protocol

The Stubborn Fat Protocol is a cardio routine developed by Lyle McDonald, a respected author of multiple excercise and diet books. The routine is innovative, but it is based on scientific research.

You will break up your cardio into 2 seperate sessions. The first session will be high intensity interval cardio for 10 minutes. The purpose of this firt session is to manipulate the adrenaline/ noradrenaline levels to mobilize the fat out of your fat cells. You then take a 5 minute rest after the first session.

Next you do 45 minutes of low intensity cardio. Afterwards you wait one hour before having a protein only meal. Then 2 or 3 hours later you can go back to normal diet, with carbs and fat included in the meals.

The reason why Lyle McDonald says it has to be done this way is because the high intensity portion gets the fat out of the cells, but there is a reduced burning effect at the muscle. It is then that you do the low intensity to finally be able to burn the mobilized fat in the muscle. Mcdonald recommends this workout 3 times a week.

Who should do the stubborn fat protocol?

The routine will be highly catabolic (muscle wasting). Ideally it should be for those who are at a plateau and low bodyfat percent trying to get that last bit of fat off. Overweight people should just stick to traditional routines as they are easier to stick to, require less time, and work well anyways. Only when you start to plateau, will a more aggressive cardio plan make sense.

You can learn more about the author Lyle McDonald at his site