Do Steroids Cause Permanent Low Testosterone Levels?

One major reason why steroid users usually cycle is so they can regain their natural testosterone levels. During steroid use, your testicles shut down their natural teststerone production. Your testicles shrink because they are no longer “active”. As the anabolic steroids leave your body, your body slowly revs back up it’s production again and your testicles grow back in size.

After short cycles or infrequent use, most will bounce back fairly easily, especially with the use of anti-estrogens post-cycle. Anti-estrogens help boost testosterone levels post cycle by lowering estrogen, an important indicator for the body in regulating testosterone production in the testicles. However, there are some people who struggle to get testosterone back after even their very first cycle. It seems to be genetically determined because some can recover no problems without even anti-estrogens, while others have shrunken testicles and low testosterone problems for many weeks or even months. It's pretty easy to tell you have low testosterone, you'll feel like a 10 year old girl scout and you won't even be able to maintain your gains.

Patrick Arnold, a expert in steroid chemistry and use, has said in the past that some people are pre-disposed to having trouble recovering their testosterone levels post-cycle. He recommends an extra long course of anti-estrogens or even possibly HCG as a final resort. Anti-estrogens usually are only taken for 2 to 4 weeks, but those with problems recovering should probably due it much longer. HCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin) is injected to jumpstart testicles sometimes because it acts like LH, a hormone that directly stimulates the testicles. The one downside to HCG is that overuse will actually cause too much testosterone causes a negetive feedback responce, once again inhibiting natural testosterone production.

Your testicles usually fully recover pretty quickly after one cycle or infrequent use, but long term abuse is another thing. You could possibly damage your testicles by staying on too long or doing too many steroid cycles over the years. It is hard to say how much damage, it would vary by the individual and their history of use. Problems would build up cumulatively, so that is why it is best to do your steroid cycles infrequently, so you allow the body to fully recover in between each one. There are reports of some former pro-bodybuilders or heavy steroid users having to take HRT (Testosterone replacement) because they have damaged their natural testosterone production. Many pro-bodybuilders never go off steroids because they won't even be able to maintain their muscle if they did so. This will surely cause irrevecoble damage to their fertility and ability to produce testosterone.


Does Viagra & Cialis Increase Muscle Building or Strength?

In the last month, viagra as a performance enhancer has hit the news with the world anti doping agency in charge of the olympics thinking of banning it. There is reports that even Roger clemens used it for performance enhancement and that Balco Founder advocated it for all of his athletes. The idea of Viagra being helpful for bodybuilders in muscle building or strength may sound silly, but there is probably some truth to it. Viagra and Cialis increase nitric oxide in the blood, increasing blood to not only erections, but also to your muscles.

Nitric oxide also increases post workout, so it is thought that nitric oxide plays a crucial role in muscle gains. That is why no2 supplements are so popular because they are thought to increase nitric oxide in the blood. However, I believe no2 supplements are a huge scam because they don't actually raise nitric oxide in the blood. You can read more in a previous post Do Nitric Oxide (No2) Supplements Work?

Some possible benefits of nitric oxide in the blood stream from viagra due to the increased blood flow to the muscles, in theory should be better muscle gains, increased muscle vascularity, and a boost in endurance in strength. Although there is no studies yet on hypertrophy or strength, there have been a couple studies on endurance athletes using viagra and it showed improvements in their times.

Obviously there are a few reasons why Viagra is not a good idea. The first being constantly taking it if its not needed will cause you to have a erection all the time, embarrassing yourself. You might even cause priapism, a persistent erection for more than a few hours that you have to seek medical attention or cause permanent damage to your penis. Plus, you will have to go out and seek a prescription from a doctor and if your young, it may be hard to convince him. If your a top level bodybuilder or desperate for any edge you can get, than it may be worth it. Many steroid users buy it anyways because of erection problems during or after their cycle.


Estrogen’s Effect on Men in Muscle Building

Bodybuilders commonly assume estrogen always equals bad because it is considered a women’s hormone. While that is generally true, I believe that your body needs a certain level of estrogens for muscle gains. If you have ever taken an anti-estrogen, you may have noticed a muscle hardening effect, but it’s hard to gain a lot of muscle mass even though they boost testosterone levels significantly. Many bodybuilders on testosterone cycles have also noticed a difference in gains from using anti-estrogens , which is why some either advocate not using them or using low dosages.

Estrogen seems to probably have many different pathways it can help with muscle building. Estrogen helps with growth hormone levels, a important factor in muscle building. Estrogens also help with water retention. Retaining water helps hydrate the cells promoting protein synthesis and storage in the cells. The water retention also helps with strength gains, which should help long term muscle gains. Estrogen also has a vital role in the protein kinase cascade, which is important in the muscle building process.

While excessive Estrogen in men is certainly a bad thing, eliminating it completely through anti-estrogens isn't going to automatically mean a large boost in gains. There are too many ways that estrogens can help your gains, that the boost in testosterone won't fully make up for all the losses from lower estrogen.


Can Taking a Break from Weightlifting Help with Plateaus?

Almost all bodybuilding workout routines today advocate taking a 2 or 3 weeks off from training once in a while to avoid plateaus. Even the old periodization routines developed decades ago, advocate a rest phase. There must be something helpful about a rest that makes it actually productive in the long run if so many advocate it.

Research on breaks from training

The most recent study I found was published in J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Aug;21(3):768-75. 46 men did 16 weeks of continuous resistance training. One group completely stopped it for 4 weeks afterwards, while the other group slowly tapered their set volume for 4 weeks. The rest group had a 9 percent drop in strength and an increase in IGF-1, a potent anabolic hormone. THe tapering group had a very slight increase in strength, but also a increase in IGFBP-3 resting levels. IGFBP-3 is the protein that binds to IGF-1 to make it not active while it is binded to the protein.

Another relevant study to our topic I found was J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Aug;16(3):373-82. 16 recreationally resistance trained men, were seperated into two groups, one put on a break from training and the other continued weight training for 6 weeks. One rep max, power, and hormonal levels were measured at the 3rd and 6th week of both groups. While the bench press strength increased in the restistance group there was no changes in any group for 1 rep max squat, body or muscle mass, body fat percent, or resting concentrations of growth hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, sex hormone-binding globulin, testosterone, cortisol, or adrenocorticotropin. One theory I have is that because they were recreationally trained, they didn't train often or serious enough to see a serious drop in strength or change of hormones.

Another study published in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1993 Aug;25(8):929-35 was done on 12 serious long term powerlifters. After 2 weeks they measured their muscle fiber composition, strength, and body hormones. Although their type 2 muscle fibers (mainly responsbile for hypertrophy) decreased significantly (by 6.4%), they had almost no drop in strength and Growth hormone levels increased 58.3%, testosterone increased 19.2%, and the testosterone to cortisol ratio 67.6% increased, whereas plasma cortisol -21.5% and creatine kinase enzyme levels -82.3% decreased.

Conclusion:

The studies i have found support what many bodybuilders and strength athletes knew all along, that a long rest is beneficial for you. If for any other reason, it returns all your bodies hormones and chemicals to a pre-training state again, so you can be ready for the next growth cycle. Think of it as taking 1 step back to take 2 steps forward to bust through your old plateau.


Effects of WeightLifting on Muscle Fiber Composition

You may have heard some bodybuilders talk about how weight training has a permanent effect on your muscle fibers. Two different ways that the muscles can change through vigrous weight training routines over a course of a few weeks, is through muscle fiber composition changes and hyperplasia.

Before we look at studies and theories, let's understand how the muscle is made up. There is two major types of muscle fibers, type I and Type II. Type I are functionally best for endurance. Type II are good for strength and power, but not good for endurance. Type II can actually be dividedfurther into fiber subtypes. Type IIB and Type IIA. Type IIB are white colored, unlike the other fibers IIA and I. They are also the most responsive to hypertrophy (Muscle growth). There are many other fiber sub-types in the body, but the most common are Type I, IIA, and IIB.

There is evidence from studies I have found, that muscle fibers type changes from weight training. In other words, One Type can become more like another fiber type, depending on your type of training. This tells us that our muscles adapts to weight training, so it can try to gain muscle easier in the future. When there is more Type II and less Type I acting fibers, it means it's easier to stimulate future muscle gains. If their is more type I and less Type II, than it becomes harder to gain muscle. It also tell us, that we have to make sure we do the right kind of training to stimulate the right changes in fibers for maximum muscle growth.

Muscle Fiber change research studies

A study published in Eur J Appl Physiol. 2002 Nov;88(1-2):50-60. Epub 2002 Aug 15. 32 men who were untrained were put into low rep, intermediate rep, high rep, and control groups. High rep group did between 20 to 28 reps with 1 minute rest. The intermediate group did between 9 to 11 reps with 2 minutes of rest for 3 sets. The low rep group did 3 to 5 reps with 3 minutes of rest for 4 sets. The excercises chosen for all groups were squat, leg press, and knee extension done 2 times a week for first 4 weeks, then 3 times a week for the final 4 weeks. The low and intermediate rep group had muscle growth (hypertrophy), but the control and high rep group did not have nearly any. Most interesting however, is that all resistance trained groups had a decrease in IIB fibers and increase in IIAB fibers. Type IIAB sub-type fibers are slightly less effective at building muscle and strength than pure IIB fibers. This study tells us that although high reps around 20 or so do not do much for hypertrophy, they induced the same muscle fiber type changes as even the very low rep ranges(3 to 5 reps).

Another study J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000 Jul;55(7):B336-46 was done on 18 older men. Half did resistance training, the other half served as control. The routine was leg press, half squat, and leg extension for 16 weeks with 6 to 8 reps to muscular failure and 1 to 2 minutes of rest. Results showed that everyone's muscles hypertrophied, but IIB fibers decreased and IIA fibers increased. Once again, the fibers are changing away from the IIB fibers.

One other study I found published in Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1990;61(1-2):37-41 They had 12 college age men do strength resistance training for 7.5 weeks, than 5 week break to then go onto 5.5 weeks of endurance training (high reps light weight). The other group started with endurance then went to strength. Results showed that both groups in phase 1 had hypertrophy and increase in sizes of all the major fiber types. The endurance group that did strength in the 2nd phase, also had more hypertrophy gains in all fibers during the 2nd phase. However, the group that went from strength to endurance in 2nd phase, reversed all hypertrophy gains in all fibers. This tells us that endurance training after strength training reverses all hypertrophy in all the muscle fiber types. The reason the endurance group probably had some hypertrophy even in phase one, is probably cause they were untrained (not previous lifters).

The results are stunning for me from these studies. I thought it would show a change to more IIB at the lower rep ranges. Instead, all the common rep ranges of lifting for bodybuilders, whether they be in the 6 rep range or the 20 rep range, all had similiar changes in muscle fiber types. The studies also show us that the common rep range bodybuilders use between 6 to 12 reps, all stimulate the major 3 types I, IIA, and IIB for hypertrophy simultaneously. This is well known by bodybuilders and this is why it is the best rep range for muscle gains. The last study cited is useful in that it tells us that switching to endurance training after strength training, will lead to muscle shrinking. This is something bodybuilders have known all along from experience. You can't maintain muscles lifting weights at the 15 + rep range, as you had gained from lifting in the 6-12 rep range. This is one reason why I don't advocate high reps during dieting.


Training to Failure Best for Muscle Building?

The most basic question everyone building muscle and strength has, is should I train to absolute muscle failure on each set or just get close to it. When I first trained, I assumed everyone went to muscular failure. Later I learned this topic has become quite controversial.

Two opposing viewpoints on Training to failure

Usually the low set volume advocates, say you should give every rep to failure and sometimes even pushing beyond that, with forced reps. They believe intensity is what ultimately stimulates muscle gains. Anyone who does sets right to failure vs. a couple reps short, will tell you there is adifference in intensity.

High volume routines usually don't advocate to failure. It would be too grueling mentally and on the bodies recovery, to do a high volume set always to absolute failure. Some routines don't really say much on the matter. These routines focus on the fact, that as long as your progressing by adding weights, that is what actually matters in the end. Some workout gurus are so adamant about their position on this, that the only way to change their minds is to use actual studies to find out which is the best way to train.

Research Studies on training to muscular failure

Only in the last few years has studies even been done on training to failure. The first one was published in J Strength Cond Res. 2005 May;19(2):382-8. They had 26 basketball players divided into a failure or non-failure resistance training routine. The failure group did 4 sets of 6 repetitions every 260 seconds. The non-failure group did 8 sets of 3 repetitions every 113 seconds, a shorter rest interval and more sets to make up for a change in the lower intensities of the set. The failure group was found to have a larger increase in strength compared to the non-failure group. This is not shocking since many arguing against failure, have thought that failure training benefit is for strength gains and not actual muscle building. One also has to consider the time under tension differences, one is doing only 3 reps and the other 6 reps and a different. I'm not sure that by adjusting set rest time, number of sets, and repetitions, you can accurately figure out whether training to failure is beneficial because your changing so many different factors.

The following year another study was published in J Appl Physiol. 2006 May;100(5):1647-56. Epub 2006 Jan 12. In this study one group did failure training for 11 weeks, the other did non-failure training for 11 weeks. Immediately after this, both groups did phase 2, where they all did the same workout to see the effect of the previous 11 weeks of training differently. Both groups were found to have the same one rep max. What was more interesting is that they found an increase in muscular endurance in the failure group and power in the nonfailure group. More importantly was they found that the non-failure group had lower cortisol levels, higher testosterone and IGF-1 levels. This means that the non-failure group were inducing a more anabolic environment hormonally, which means they should get better muscle gains. I was surprised to see that that the one rep maxes were the same and that power was better among the non-failure group. I believe the differences in resting hormone levels, gives us a much better confirmation that not training to failure is better for muscle building. I've read that the last rep to failure releases a lot of cortisol and that may be what explains the higher cortisol levels and lower testosterone levels.

JM Willardson, a renowned excersie research scientist who has done some many studies that I reference on this blog for many of my articles published a abstract on the issue of trainig to failure in J Strength Cond Res. 2007 May;21(2):628-31. Willardson there is not yet enough studies to prove that training to failure is not ideal, but he did recommend it for busting through plateaus. He doesn't recommend it for long term because he believes it leads to higher chance of injury. Whether or not you believe training to failure is better for muscle growth, there is a definite higher chance of injury.

Conclusion:

I don't think the controversy will ever be ended because there is always those who don't want to listen to research, but instead rather follow what some bodybuilder did years ago. Training to failure is very popular because it is hard not to train to failure. I know when I workout, I usually wind up training to failure because I can't resist, even though I know it's not needed for muscle building. It helps me judge my progress in strength because each workout I'm using the same reference point, by going as far as I can on a set.


Do Pain Killers affect Muscle Building?

For years, bodybuilders wanted to know if their OTC pain killers like Asprin or Tylenol or prescriptions like vicodin had any effect on their muscle building efforts. Bodybuilders often take pain killers to get through an injury, aching joints, or to recover from muscle soreness. Unfortunately, certain groups of these pain killers may actually be hurting your muscle building efforts. You may have been sabatoging your muscle gains all these years and not even realized it.

NSAIDs Painkillers' Effect on Muscle Growth

Most of the common over the counter paink killers we use are called NSAIDS (Non-steroid anti inflammatory drugs), which include Asprin, ibuprofen (Motrin), Naproxen (Aleve), and various others. Some prescription painkillers are also NSAIDs too. Acetaminophen (brand name tylenol), often used over the counter is the only commonly used over the counter pain killer not a NSAID.

It turns out according to studies in the last year that NSAIDs and Acetaminophen, both can dramatically drop your rate of protein synthesis. When protein synthesis drops you can't build muscle effectively. In order to build muscle, you need a higher protein synthesis rate than breakdown rate, so there is a net gain in the muscles.

The first study came out in 2001 J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Oct;86(10):5067-70.. 24 men after 10 to 14 resistance workout sets took either Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen, or a control placebo group. This study only measured prostaglandins, but researches concluded that it's impact could effect muscle building. The impact of the study didn't hit the bodybuilding community at the time because it didn't quite have the link yet.

A year later the researchers performed another study measuring this time protein synthesis and published it in Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Mar;282(3):E551-6.. They had the same 3 groups, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and placebo, do resistance excercises. The results were stunning, the control group had 75% higher protein synthesis, compared to the ibuprofen and acetaminophen group. Interesting enough, the study showed that it had no impact on overall protein synthesis, only at the site of the worked muscle. This implies to me that these pain killer drugs interact to block some action that promotes the inflammatory response in muscle building locally.

Since then, studies have also shown the impact of Asprin Biol Chem. 2007 Apr;282(14):10164-71. Epub 2007 Feb 6. on protein synthesis. Therefore it appears the whole class of NSAIDs and Tylenol definitely effect protein syntehsis. One study Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 May;38(5):840-6. went further than measuring protein synthesis. They actually compared muscle growth between rats who took ibuprofen and those who did not, with both groups overloading the muscle. Results showed a 50% drop in muscle growth!

Opiate based pain killers' effects on Muscle building

Opiates are a stronger groups of pain killers that work via a very different mechanism than the over the counter pain killers. There is no studies that I can find that yet show its impact on muscle growth. However, Loperamide is an opiate pain killer found in the over the counter drug Imodium. Loperamide is used as an anti-diarrhetic drug. Imodium is over the counter because it doesn't have a effect on the brain on recommended dosages in Imodium. Interesting enough, it has strong anti cortisol properties according to research. Whether or not this effect on blocking cortisol is seen in other opiate pain killers, I do not know, as I can't find research on cortisol effects and other opiates. There also is no studies on protein synthesis and taking opiates, so even if it does lower cortisol, we don't know if opiates can effect muscle building by possibly reducing protein synthesis and cancel a possible benefit from reducing cortisol.


Muscle Memory a Myth?

Bodybuilders spend years building up their muscle mass. That is why most bodybuilders hate cutting because they know in the process they will lose some of their hard earned muscle while they lose fat. Most bodybuilders think that if you take off a few months from lifting or you get injured or sick, you will have to start all over again taking many months or years to build muscle back. However, this is not true. Instead you will experience a much easier time gaining muscle often called “Muscle memory”.

I’ve had personal experience with muscle memory. As a hardgainer, it took years and tons of effort to put on a lot of weight. When I got off my diet for a couple years, I lost a ton of weight. When I got back on a higher calorie and higher protein diet again, I immediately started gaining weight and muscle back quickly. Muscle memory doesn't mean the muscle just flys on with no effort, what it means is that you will get there a lot quicker with the same effort as before.

What causes muscle memory?

There is no research studies on what causes muscle memory. I don't think there could even be a way to measure how to even find the cause. However, I think the cause of muscle memory can be pinned down to some possibilities. Your first guess for the cause of muscle memory, maybe might with hormones, like Testosterone and Growth hormone. This can't be the cause because studies have shown when you raise calories, these hormones goes up for about a couple weeks, but it drops again after that. Muscle memory can last months, not just a couple weeks. It wouldn't make sense anyways, since anytime you start back on a new diet, your anabolic hormones are going to go high anyways in the beginning, regardless of what your muscle base was in the past.

Another theory could be hyperplasia. Hypertrophy is the growing of the diameter of the muscle fibers, by sythesizing new protein. Hyperplasia is the division of muscle fibers to make new fibers. Many have argued that hyerplasia doesn't exist in humans, but from my research I believe it does. I believe muscle gains are from both hypertrophy and from a little bit of hyperplasia. Heavy weight training can help induce hyperplasia. Therefore, it could be easier to gain the muscle back in the future because you now have more muscle fibers to work with, that have potential to grow.

The most common theory I've seen bodybuilders explain for muscle fascia tissue is fascia stretching. There is a connective tissue that tightly hugs around muscles, called the fascia. Some theorize that fascia helps slow down muscle building because muscles can't grow with it binding. Once you stretch the fascia, it tends not to shrink back. Some have incorporated fascia tissue stretches with weights into their weight training routine, including pro-bodybuilders Jay Cutler. These deep stretches help permanently stretch the fascia tissue. From my research I'm also a firm believer in fascia stretching to help muscle gains, so I often incorporate it into my workouts.

I personally believe muscle memory is caused by a combination of hyperplasia, fascia stretching, and maybe some other unknown factors. It may be caused by hyperplasia alone, or fascia stretching alone, we don't know. Muscle memory is a fascinating thing and it's good to know that if we hit a rough time and can't follow diet and training, we can get our gains back much easier in the future thanks to muscle memory.


Does Changing Workout Routines Prevent Plateaus?

The idea of a plateau is commonly misunderstood among weightlifter. The idea that gains will stop suddenly doesn’t make sense to people. Eventually all weightlifters will experience a halt in their muscle and strength gains after a few weeks. I've seen some people lift the same weights and excercises for months and wonder why their gains halt. You cannot expect to do the same exact workout and always gain. Eventually, your body overadapts and your gains halt. Your body does not like major change, so it was setup to only have short bursts of change at a time.

That is where the principles of periodization come in. The Periodization Method was actually developed for strength athletes by a Russian named Leo Matveyev. The purpose of periodization is to change your workout in phases after a specic amount of weeks, in order to prevent your body from adapting to workouts. The differences in phases are based on different types of training. For example, one phase is for muscle growth, the next is for power, then followed by a strength phase, and another for light weights. I personally believe besides keeping your body from plateauing, changing your workout also helps you in the long run because it gives your muscles a more well rounded development. By drastically changing your workout intensity you stimulate different fibers and stimulate them in a different manner, leading to different adaptions of the muscle. This well rounded development can only help you in the long run.

It may seem silly to work with light weights or on power, if your goal is muscle growth. The point of periodization, was to take 2 steps forward and one step back. By constantly changing the workout and how your muscles were stimulated you kept one step ahead of a permanent plateau. Another way to look at is, When you go up a hill you have to change to a lower gear on a clutch in order to eventually get over it, you don't simply try to hit the gas pedal and burn your engine trying to get up it. Likewise, simply trying to stack on more and more weight won't always work. You have to change your workout or you will stop getting stronger no matter how much weight you stack on.

Periodization controversy

Not everyone is at a consensus that Periodization is better than simply adding weights (progressive overload principle). There are some workout routines, such as HIT, and some bodybuilding gurus that don't believe in radically changing workout routines to avoid plateaus. I think the only reason why some have gained on HIT is because they were doing other workouts before HIT and it was just new gains to a new routine. Taking weeks off of training can also desensitize your body, and make it less likely to hit a plateau from the same routine. I consider taking a few weeks off every once in a while, a crude form of periodization. When you take a break and come back to weight training your body is going to gain muscle and possibly bust through your old plateau because you are shocking it after a long layoff. Studies have shown that those who followed periodization gained more strength and muscle than those who didn't. I've only been able to get past workout plateaus by either taking a break or changing my workout radically.

Do bodybuilders need to follow periodzation method?

Periodization is a developed routine method, but you don't have to follow it exactly. The point is you should understand it's principles, to help you understand how to change your workouts at specific phases. If you are always lifting heavy with slow negatives, it would help you to switch to a more endurance and less intense workout for a few weeks. For example higher reps, shorter rest time, and faster negatives to make it a more endurance type workout. Simply switching excercises or their order is not enough, you have to change at least 3 of some of the intensity parameters like rep speed, rest time, rep range, and set volume.


ABCDE Diet

ABCDE stands for Anabolic Burst Cycling of Diet and Excercise. It was developed by a swedish doctor Torbjorn Akerfeldt. It is one of the most radical, yet intriguing bodybuilding diet systems I have found. Suprisingly, the main goal of this diet is not high protein , but instead high calories.

The main premise of the ABCDE diet is that you manipulate your body hormone levels through dieting. Just like weight training helps muscle adaption, you use diet to force your body hormones to respond. How is this done? Well, reasearch has been found by Torbjorn Akerfeldt that showed that testosterone, GH, IGF-1, and other hormones important for muscle building, increase rapidly with an influx of calories. This is not something new, I've known for a while from reading research before reading the ABCDE diet, that high calories increase your anabolic hormones.

What makes the ABCDE diet different from other bodybuilding diets, is that he only advocates short cycles of bulking, followed by a fat loss phase. He found research that shows the anabolic hormones plateau after 2 weeks then start dropping down again. Therefore, he recommends after 2 weeks, you start on a cutting phase for 2 weeks. Then you go back to bulking, so your body responds once again with a surge of testosterone, GH, etc when you go on a bulk. In essence, you are staying one step ahead of your body, and putting it in confusion, forcing it to adapt hormonally.

Interesting enough, you don't even need to weight train to experience some muscle gains. A study done on (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 49.4 (1989) : 608-611) 6 men showed 4 lbs of lean muscle mass gained, with only 2 lbs of fat, when they ate excess calories with no weight training. Of course, muscle gains on this diet would only work well for someone who doesn't lift weights and is new to the diet. You can't epect to gain a lot of muscle mass without ever lifting a weight, or people who take steroids wouldn't lift weights either, since both raise your testosterone levels. Another study published in (J. Nutr. 109.3 (1979) : 363-377) measured differences in net protein utilization in the diet between 15% and 30% over maintenance calories. They found the 30% group used more protein, therefore they were increasing protein synthesis and thefore muscle mass. The point of these study, is that simply eating an excess of calories has an anabolic effect.

Torbjorn Akerfeldt believes that it's more important you get higher calories than higher protein during the bulking phase. Without an excessive amount of calories, you won't cause this surge in hormones. You need a lot of protein to help build muscles, but high calories is the most important. Therefore the ABCDE diet doesn't really focus on counting macronutrient ratios, or clean vs. junk foods. He recommends about a thousand calories above maintenance.

After 2 weeks you then should enter a cutting phase. This is where you lose the excess fat you gained in the first 2 weeks. According to Torbjorn Akerfeldt, the body prefers to hold onto muscle, so you should lose more fat than muscle during this phase. Weight training during the fat loss phase, will help your muscle preservation. Torbjorn recommends restricting calories about a 1000 under maintenance.

It sounds like the ABCDE is a great diet, eat what you want and constantly keep your body from adapting. However, there is a problem I see with this diet. It's tough to follow It is very hard for someone to go from severe restricting calories to eating an very excess overnight. You have to force feed yourself in the beginning of the bulk diet because your appetite is likely to not handle a thousand calorie increase suddenly. If you go from the bulking phase to the fat loss phase, you are going to drop your calories by a couple thousand. It will be hard to not give into cravings, after being on a massive bulking diet just right before that. It will be tremendously hard to then increase calories by 2000 after the fat loss, in order to eat 1000 calories above maintenance.

I've heard hardgainers complain that they usually wind up losing the precious muscle they gained during the fat loss phase of the ABCDE diet. I suppose one could stay longer in the bulking phase (maybe to 3 weeks) and shorten the fat loss phase (maybe to 1 week). Those who gain fat easily, might want to do the opposite and shorten the bulk phase and lengthen the fat loss phase. Another way I suppose you could do things, is increase and decrease calories by smaller amount (like 300-400 above and below maintenance) instead by a 1000, to make the ABCDE diet easier to follow. You could also modify calories based on bodytype and phase. For example, hardgainers eat 1000 calories during bulking, but only restrict calories by 300-400 during dieting). Easygainers with slow metabolism could increase calories by 3 or 400 during bulking and 1000 during diet. I think if you modify the diet a bit for your metabolism and genetics, it will work a lot better than just a 50/50 split between bulking and cutting like with the original ABCDE diet. If your a mesomorph who gains muscle and stays lean naturally, than ABCDE diet is perfect how it is because you don't need to focus on one phase more than the other.


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