Protein intake is absolutely crucial for building muscle mass. It is what muscle tissue is made of. So how can you possibly gain muscle by eating NO protein?
To help answer this question, we need to first look at a training technique known as carbohydrate or carb-loading. Carb-loading is used primarily by endurance athletes to increase glycogen stores in the muscles beyond what the body will normally store. This increased fuel storage equals greater endurance. This phenomenon is known as “supercompensation” and it is very well documented.
The basic technique for carb-loading involves first eliminating carbs from the diet for several days while continuing to train hard. Training is then reduced and the athlete eats large amounts of carbs, in effect “loading” the muscles with glycogen (stored carbohydrates). Since the body has been deprived of carbs, it reacts to the extra carbs by greedily holding onto every last one it can. This technique can result in glycogen stores up to 1 1/2 times greater than normal.
But what does carb-loading have to do with eating no protein and gaining muscle? Everything.
In the context of supercompensation, imagine the result if you were to remove protein from your diet for a day. Just like with carb-loading, your body will react by greedily holding onto every last bit of protein it can. But here’s the major difference: when accompanied by appropriate training, unlike with carb-loading where the extra carbs are burnt for fuel, you can convince your body to hang onto that extra protein permanently. How does this happen? By using it to build muscle, which is the primary storehouse of protein in your body.
How To Do It:
Note: before I tell you exactly how to do it, please keep in mind that I am not a medical doctor or nutritionist. This information is for educational purposes only and you should always consult your physician before making any major changes to your diet.
The technique consists of 3 phases: lead-up, protein deprivation, and supercompensation. These phases work synergistically to produce the conditions for very quick muscle gain.
In a nutshell, the lead-up phase consists of your training and diet for the several days before the protein deprivation day. The protein deprivation day is simply a day without protein. The supercompensation phase is the nutrition and training techniques you will use to maximize the rebound off the protein deprivation day.
I first encountered this technique a number of years ago in the writings of Leo Costa Jr. of Optimum Training Systems. He originated this theory after noting that farmers in Bulgaria would rotate protein in and out of the diets of their livestock to improve the amount and quality of the meat in the animals. He applied this technique to humans and weight training with amazing results!
Phase 1 – The Lead Up
There are several ways you can go about leading up to your protein deprivation day.
The first way is to continue with your regular diet and training right up until the day you do the protein deprivation technique. Take it relatively easy on your training – work hard but don’t push yourself. Take a full day (or two) off training the day before you do the protein starvation day to make sure you’re fully rested.
The second method involves temporarily restricting your carb intake before the protein deprivation day. (It is important to check with your doctor before restricting carbs in your diet, especially if you’ve never done it before.)
Basically, during the 3 days leading up to your protein deprivation day, you will keep your carb intake to around 30 to 50 grams per day (don’t change anything else in your diet, just reduce your carb intake).
Restricting your carbs will deplete your body’s glycogen stores, forcing it to rely more on fat and protein for energy. Remember the example I used in the beginning of the article about carb- loading? In the supercompensation phase, you will see how restricting then reloading your carbs, when properly combined with protein deprivation, can really shock your body into new muscle growth.
Phase 2 – The Protein Deprivation Day
This is the day that will set up the supercompensation, muscle-building phase. Essentially, you will be eating only fruit today – nothing else. You will be completely eliminating protein (and fat, incidentally) from your diet. What are the results of this? Your body uses up its protein stores and, just like in carb-loading, this creates an urgent need in your body to store the missing nutrient when it gets it again.
Eat as much fruit as you want on this day – apples, oranges, strawberries, bananas, whatever. You don’t need to limit your intake at all. As long as you keep eating fruit, your body will use up its protein stores (known as the free amino acid pool) and set up the supercompensation phase. Also, eating only fruit for a day is very cleansing to your body. You may even find this day helps your digestive system function better.
As far as training goes, you have several options:
1. You can take a day off training. Depending on how your body reacts to protein deprivation, you may not feel like training at all. This is fine. You’ll still get the effect of the protein deprivation, just not as strongly as if you were training.
2. Do a normal workout. Train the way you regularly train, treating the day as just another day in your exercise routine. Working out will help to increase the effect of the protein deprivation day by creating an even more urgent need in your body to hold onto protein.
3. Break it down hard. To maximize the supercompensation effect of the protein deprivation day, train for maximum muscle breakdown. Use heavy, basic exercises and really push yourself, e.g. use exercises such as squats or deadlifts, bench press, bent-over rows, shoulder presses, barbell curls and dips. Training like this on a protein deprivation day will send your body into a panic. It will really be ready to suck up that protein!
Be very careful when training on the all-fruit day for the first time. You may not have as much strength as you normally would. Be sure to eat a lot of fruit or drink fruit juice immediately after you’ve completed your workout. It is also important to drink a lot of water on this day as your body will be flushing out a lot of toxic byproducts from the system.
Phase 3 – Supercompensation
This is the phase you’ve been waiting for. You’ve just finished depriving your body of protein for an entire day and it’s ready to start sucking it up.
The first day is the most important day. Start your day with a protein shake (if you have that available) immediately upon waking. Every meal you eat today should be very high protein. To maximize the effect of the protein deprivation day, you should try to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight MINIMUM (i.e. if you weigh 200 pounds, eat 200 grams of protein). If you can eat more, do it.
Continue eating very high protein meals for the next 3 to 5 days. Your body is in the process of reloading with protein and you want to make sure you give it as much as you possibly can (just like with carb-loading). Your body will be supercompensating for the protein deprivation day by grabbing and holding onto a lot more of this protein than it normally would.
Now you must train to consolidate into muscle the extra protein your body is holding on to. For best results, you will need to train hard and heavy. Utilize basic exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench presses, etc. for sets of 6 to 8 reps. Because of the protein deprivation and supercompensation effect, your body will be looking to hold onto a lot more protein, i.e. muscle mass, than usual.
Now, remember in Phase 1 where I described a restricted carb version of the lead-in phase? Here’s where it really shows its power. Not only are you doing a protein-load in the third phase, you will also be doing a carb-load! What does that mean for you? It means even greater muscle growth.
When you eat carbs, your body secretes the hormone insulin. Insulin is the body’s major storage hormone. It helps the body store carbs. It helps the body store fat. But, most importantly for us, it also helps the body store protein. By restricting carbs for a few days, you sensitize your body to carbs and insulin.
Here’s why this is important: you’ve just eliminated protein from your diet for a day and your body is ready to suck up every last bit of protein it can. Now you can also flood it with carbs (and insulin) which your body is now more sensitive to because of your previous carb restriction. The result: your muscles take up even more protein, which means you can gain even more muscle very quickly!
It’s truly amazing what an incredible effect purposefully restricting or removing a major nutrient such as protein (or carbs) can do for muscle growth. Your body is greedy. It doesn’t like to be deprived. By taking something away, you can fool your body into holding onto a whole lot more of it when you bring it back.
With the techniques described in this article, you can add pounds of new muscle to your body in a very short period of time.