During this cycle of training I’ll be experimenting with something called the ABCDE diet. The only additions will be that I won’t be trying to gain mass, only some targeted muscle gains along with fat loss, and it will be vegetarian. For those of you interested in mass, Bryan Carney at Beachbody will be our guinea pig in that arena.
The diet was conceptualized over a decade ago by Torbjorn Akerfeldt, who tested it on himself while studying medicine in Sweden. The acronym stands for anabolic burst cycling of diet and exercise. It’s basically a periodizational diet plan that’s a bit of a hybrid of the two dietary strategies that I use to get results with clients: structured periodization (like the P90X diet plan) and zig-zag dieting (short periods of alternate low and high cal days, using for either gaining or losing).
My diet plans work. I had decades of anecdotal testing prior to Beachbody, followed by our message board community, “the largest test group ever assembled”. I didn’t invent my diet strategies, but have tweaked them over the years. I almost always get success but there are still a few gray areas. Akerfeldt’s theories could fill in these gaps.
In essence, his plan is a giant zig zag platform; two week cycles of both undereating and overeating. He claims this helps you gain mass without the common mass achiever’s side effect of associated fat gain that must be lost later. Whether or not this plan works as well as he states is still up for debate. After all, it hasn’t become a best seller and isn’t widely practiced.
What intrigues me are a couple of points of science that seem to be the missing link in my observations.
Basically, our genes control the expression of enzymes. These enzymes control every aspect of our metabolisms, including the activation of different pathways and the rate at which chemical reactions take place in our bodies. [Outside biochemical system enzymes are often referred to as catalysts.] Evolution has given our genes the ability to control the production of these enzymes as well as their activity level. Due to this fact, the body will be able to adapt to different food intakes as well as become prepared or "primed" for a future, sudden change in the diet.
This explains why periodizational dieting works (something that I knew from experience but didn’t have the science figured out.) And Akerfeldt has taken it a step further by noting that, in the same way we adapt to exercise, our bodies adapt to dietary change—specifically in about two weeks time. So by altering how you eat every two weeks you can, if done correctly, improve the efficiency of how your muscles cells utilize nutrients.
While Akerfeldt is interested in mass this theory should be applicable for anything you’d like to do when it comes to re-designing your body because a body in an adaptive phase is far more open to suggested changes. Since he is targeting mass, he combines the diet with something called “bag theory”:
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.
Again, this has a practical application beyond mass. It’s essentially helps you get more nutrients inside of your muscle cells. Sure, that means growth, but it also means performance. In theory, this should enable you to truly spot train, or sports train, because you can choose to stretch areas where you’d like more muscular efficiency.
The vegetarian angle is simply to test my own theories about anabolic dieting and meat.
That’s enough for today. There will be plenty more in the New Year.