We all know that protein is the most important fuel you can put in your body to gain muscle mass. If you’re a hard gainer, however, you probably need something more to force your body to respond. Protein cycling is a time tested technique that has allowed many people to overcome their genetic weaknesses and pack on the mass that their hard work in the gym deserves. Let’s find out how you can use protein cycling to get similar results.
What is Protein Cycling?
Protein cycling is a method loading protein for a set period of time, which is usually six weeks. It is followed by a shorter period of gradual reduction until protein intake has returned to baseline levels of one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. The goal is to build lean muscle tissue. There are a few different ways to go about protein loading. Each one is designed to offset the loss of muscle that takes place when you reduce your protein intake.
Protein cycling will only help you to pack on muscle if you are also working hard in the gym.
How to Do Protein Cycling?
The first step is to set up a protein surge by increasing protein intake, absorption and utilization for muscle repair and growth. The first goal will be to get to your baseline of one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. So, if your weight is 170 pounds, you should be taking in 170 grams.
Having met your baseline, increase your protein intake by 30-40 grams per day. Stay at this level (210 to 220 lbs for a 170 lb guy for two weeks. Then undergo your second surge by bumping up your daily protein intake by another 30-40 grams (240 to 250 lbs). Keep at this level for another two weeks.
For the final two weeks of your cycle, stack on another 30-40 grams of protein. That will put our 170 pound guy up to 270 to 280 lbs.
Following your six week protein loading phase, gradually reduce your protein intake to baseline levels of one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Do this over a period of two weeks. Do not immediately cut back to your baseline intake or you will risk losing muscle tissue. Ideally you should drop back by no more than 10 grams of protein per day.
During this phase you should concentrate on eating whole protein foods. Cut back to no more than one protein shake per day. During this phase it is also best to use casein rather than whey protein. You should also increase your consumption of carbohydrates and healthy fats. So, as you reduce your protein, gradually increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables. As a general guide, add a serving of fruit or vegetables for every 25 grams of protein that you reduce by.
During your recovery phase you should also cut back on your training volume. Reduce your total number of sets by 25 percent. Reduce your weights by 10-15 percent.
How to Get In Your Protein
280 grams is a lot of protein for a 170 pound guy to take in in one day. So long as you are training hard, however, you will be rewarded with pounds of solid muscle gain. Take in five meals per day, dividing your protein intake evenly. Make at least two of those meals a protein shake. Whey is a source of high quality protein that is quickly absorbed, making it ideal after your workout.
Increasing your protein intake to the levels suggested here puts extra digestive and absorptive demands on your system. To meet those needs, you should consider taking the following supplements:
- Soluble Fiber
What’s the Best Protein Powder
During the protein loading phase of your cycle, you should be taking in a couple of whey protein shakes per day. In the recovery phase, you will use casein protein. Two of the most popular whey protein shakes on the market right now are Isopure and Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard. When it comes to protein for building strength, our recommendation is Optimum Nutrition, which contains ultra filtered protein and includes added glutamine and branched chain amino acids. It is also available in 15 delicious flavors.
Protein cycling is a proven and effective way to maximize your muscle mass over a short period of time. It boosts your protein and nitrogen retention during the loading phase and then minimizes nitrogen and muscle loss during the recovery period. If you follow the guidelines outlined in this article, you can safely repeat the cycle two or three times in succession. All going well, and provided that you are training hard, that should allow you to pack on 10 to 15 pounds of quality muscle!