T Nation

Protein Cycling?


i know this topic is a bit outdated, because i've done a search on this web, and those who said they tried this protein cycling told there is no different.

i'm short of money, can't afford tons of protein, and this technique claim there is no loss of muscle mass even eating 20-40g of protein per day for up to a month. it seems economically fit my situation....

i may try it. but i really want to know some of the accurate statistic from those who've try it. not just broad comments.

thanks for help


I don't know where you got your "protein cycling" information, but what you posted goes against almost most of what we know about your body's physiology, no matter if exercising or not.

Muscles only work with what's called catalysts, derived from the amino acids you ingest. These catalysts take priority over protein synthesis (which is also vital to daily function, not just muscle building). And, just your liver alone needs 50-70 grams of protein to make enzymes and hormones, etc. Therefore, even for the smallest, weakest human being, 20-40 grams a day is hardly adequate!

For the average size man, I'd say the minimum protein needs are at least ? gram per pound of body weight, 3/4 being even better, 1.0 if you want to see your workouts pay off. I know what's its like to be on a tight budget, so do what you have to do to take care of your basic needs. But, don't have the false notion that its okay to eat that little dietary protein. I personally dropped my intake to about ? of my body weight in grams (just got distracted) and within a few weeks all my friends were asking my if I was sick and telling me how small I was getting! My total cals were still sufficient, but I was losing muscle like I had a wasting disease!

Forget the studies and data - we can tell you first hand what happens when you don't eat enough of the right things. A few days won't hurt you - even a day or two of fasting (though arguable). But, a month is ridiculous if you want to keep even the smallest gains. Not to mention, your health may even be compromised by only eating 20-40 grams of protein per day.



thanks TopSirloin's detail reply,

may be some of my past information can help you understand more of my body.....

when people say they use "weight gainer" to gain weight, and use "protein powder" when "losing weight".

i'm just experiencing the opposite, when i take whey protein, even not up to 1g/lb of BW, my body smooth out, and gain weight, given that i'm not eating tons of calories at the same time.

when i use weight gainer, my body become more "hard-looking", and lose weight....

may be that's why i should think about using less protein.....

i didn't say i'll go that low (20-40g per day), actually i'll go to 100g per day.


I re-read the protein cycling article about two weeks ago and was interested-but as it was very old wasn't sure anyone would even remember it.

I have to be quite honest. I notice very little difference between 120 and 240 grams of protein a day and used both of these for months at a time, and I really think the body just starts making lots more enzymes (as TopSirloin pointed out the importance of enzymes) which break down protein quickly for use as fuel.

From an anabolism/catabolism point of view, there's only about 80 grams of protein in a pound of muscle, and you typically use up 80 grams of protein a day for daily needs. If your body was 100% efficient in delivering protein where you need it, you could gain 20 pounds in a year with 85 grams a day!

The whole theory of more protein is based on the body being very inefficient, but let's face it, if your eating 300 grams of protein a day, your body has become VERY inefficient at using protein. I TRULY believe that most Americans have an unknown gap in their nutrition somewhere that would be a weak link in building muscle before anyone would need 300 grams a day. We eat fruits and vegetables that grow to huge proportions fast and never absorb the micronutrients in the concentration that they were meant to.

I may try it some time, because, although I've built some muscle over the years, I gained as much or more, and as quickly when eating 90-120 grams a day as 200-240 grams a day.

If you read the article, you'll see that the key is to slowly lower your protein intake, and for a normal male, going down to 70-90 grams a day would be the least, and then to suddenly add back 100 to 150% more. Lets say you start at 200 grams/day. Week 1: 170, Week 2: 140, Week 3: 110, Week 4: 80.

Then say two weeks at 190-220 grams/day.

That's the theory anyway.


actually, the theory is keep eating the 20-40g protein for 4 weeks, not just "week4" as you said, then after that go for 1g/lb of BW for 4-8 weeks, not 190-220g/day.

and i should give out some of my body's measurement:

height : 172cm
bodyweight : 202.4lbs
fat % : 21
Lean Body Mass: 160lbs

so, i will try to start at 160g protein per day. then slowly cut down to 80g. keep it for 4 weeks. then raise it up to 160g per day again.

and in this period, i'll use CW's SFM to gain strength without too much breakdown on my muscles to prevent muscle loss...

any more idea?


Yea, yea. I just mean don't suddenly cut your protein in half. I do think the low protein may cause a production of anti-catabloic hormones.



I partially agree in that we don't need several times our body weight or LBM in protein to be healthy. I believe that is a gross over-estimate that we hear all too often.

But, its much, much more complicated that you were making it with the "80 grams in a pound of muscle theory", that you could eat merely 5 grams over your maint. level and gain 20 pounds of beef in a year. Even though that was merely an example, that is highly presumptuous and far fetched.

There are many more variables at hand than were mentioned on this thread. One is a protein turn-over rate, where proteins are used as "tools" and not for protein synthesis. Plus, you have a given amount that is metabolized for energy. Further, your protein needs vary greatly depending on how hard your training is, if you are hyper or hypo caloric, your protein absorption rate, and the bioavailability of your protein sources (quality). Therefore, its not plausible to simply draw a linear relationship to maint. protein requirements and hypertrophy requirements.

As alluded to, each individual is different. Yes, some of use could eat high carb, low-fat, low-protein (60-80 grams) per day and still gain mass. I've seen a pole vaulter/sprinter maintain 170 lbs at 6% BF on bacon and Pop Tarts! He got 80 grams on a good day. Where as your intermediate/advanced lifters would go backwards on anything less than 150 grams a day for prolonged periods of time.

Monster wong-

Why are you so interesting in this cycling theory? Is it mostly economics, body composition based, or what? Unless there is a specific reason behind your interest, most people naturally cycle their protein with out even realizing it. Unless you are being ultra-anal like a pro BB, your protein intake probably already varies, especially being "tight" (presumably putting yourself through school). Some days you might get 150 grams and others only 80. One day you might eat a dozen eggs and the next morning a slice of toast! So, like most non-pro fitness enthusiasts, you are probably already protein cycling on an intermittent, unplanned basis.




i want to try this cycling because "money" is very limited, and carbs is more cheaper than protein right at my place. and yes, i'm an unversity student, but i'm not a "typical" uni student. i've been training for 9 years, and i've put the information of all the stuff i'll eat into my computer and calculating everything like cal, carb, protein & fat.

so i'm eating constantly for long period of time, not "cycling unplanned". i only have one "cheat" meal, always on Sunday lunch time, eating at church. other times i eat what i've planned to eat.

of course, i always try some of the diet in this web. but i never go more than 200g protein on any day because of money limitation.....