T Nation

Autoregulating Bodybuilding, A Few Q's

Hello coach - great vid cast on the blog. Also you look healthier (skin tone), maybe tanner lol

Using the pump and mind/muscle as autoregulation is very interesting…looking back in my history the best gains I made almost ALWAYS followed this. Particularly evident with layers + plazma…the building of the pump = daily gains.

Now sometimes I experience the opposite. FLAT MUSCLES. Not really feeling the mind muscle…yet still “performing” fine. In fact on the outside my strength lifts look even better (performance wise) yet the pump is down.

And I have found a 1:1 correlation with this to “flatter” physique. In fact less muscular overall and more water retention. So there is a really real link between pump/muscle feel and body comp…my question is how can I maximize this? improve this so that i have much higher odds of having an incredible (gains inducing) pump each time?

Nutrition, supplement wise? Mental? Training? I think stress & lifestyle plays a huge role. When I have a string of very stressful days or my sleep is off, I use adrenaline and coffee to actually “perform” pretty well in the gym. But the physique just ends up flatter…and sometimes fatter!

Very weird phenomenon. It is almost like you can train and end up lookgn worse then if you hadn’t trained!

Nah, I’m just not as lean. That was filmed midway through a mass gaining phase in which I got up to 233 (I was 228 in the video). I have a small skinny face and when I get lean my face looks a bit unhealthy. At 233 I still had abs and decent vascularity and separation, but also a small film of fat over the whole body. Makes me look thicker but also makes my face look healthier. I call this a “soft cut” state.

That is due to cortisol and adrenaline

When I give a seminar I always say that at the end of each day I look like I gained 10lbs of fat and lost 10lbs of muscle… it’s so bad that I have to shower in the dark afterwards to avoid catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror!

Cortisol and adrenaline both decrease muscle glycogen stores, making you look flat and small, especially if it is a prolonged increase in cortisol levels.

Cortisol also increases water retention by increasing aldosterone and vasopressin levels.

To me, when you look significantly worse after the workout it means that you produced too much cortisol (either during the session itself, or the session just topped off a high cortisol release from the rest of the day) and this is definitely gonna have a negative impact on your gains (could even lead to regression).

Not being capable of getting a pump in the gym would either indicate lack of intramuscular glycogen or that water shifted more the extracellular component (so less intracellular); likely increasing subcutaneous water retention. This could also be a cortisol issue but could be related to carbs intake and electrolyte balance.

I believe that sometimes training WILL indeed worsen/hurt your progress. For example I used to train when I gave a seminar because I felt flat and needed to do some lifting because mentally it felts like I was losing muscle (I knew I wasn’t but the brain is powerful). I stopped that because I realized it did more harm than good. Training when your cortisol is already sky high is not a good idea and will greatly diminish the positive impact of the session, it could even lead to negative changes.

I’m easily addicted to training and I used to train 6-7 days a week no matter what. Even if I travels to the other end of the world I would force myself to train even if I was in a plane for 15-20 hours, didn’t eat much and felt jet lagged. I stopped doing that and I gained muscle and strength much faster. In the last 3 months there were weeks where I only trained 3x a week because of seminars and lots of traveling. But in that period I was able to go up from 220 to 233 and still had abs. Felt much better, much fresher. Sure I hate the days I don’t train. But now I simply use that frustration to get a better workout the next time I’m in the gym.

When I’m at home and don’t have any seminar (I had a week off last week) I will train 6-7 days a week, but when I’m in a high stress situation I don’t have a problem going down to 3-4. What I do is have 4 planned hard workouts that I can get in 95% of the time every week. If I can make it to the gym more often (less stress) the extra 2-3 sessions are much lower stress… isolation work, focusing on fixing weak links, no neurologically demanding exercises, higher reps, no longer than 40 minutes.

As for why is your performance just as good if not better when in that state; my theory is that you have less intramuscular pressure/friction which facilitate concentric muscle action/muscle fiber sliding.

Ah gotcha, cut down freq a bit. Also this weird thing where I literally feel my arms “less muscular” and more “mass” in my belly regiion…both internally and also externally (water retention/flab). For someone pretty in tune with body I can literally feel the cortisol taking effect and make that abdomen bloat!

Diet wise any recommendations? Eat lots of veggies and fruits? Sometimes when I go very low carb this same effect happens (like if I do a “keto” diet) I end up getting skinny fat. Ironically eating things like rice or tapioca pudding, something “junkier” can help this.

Thank you!

I’m the same way. If I look like crap because cortisol emptied up muscle glycogen and made me retain water I will look better if I cheat. BUT it could also slow down the leaning out process.

The best thing is to avoid that soft flatness from occurring. I think that the best approach is to consume small but frequent carbs feedings throughout the day (5x 30g or so and 60-90g around workouts) which will not have a huge impact on insulin and will keep cortisol at bay (carbs are the best anti-cortisol).

hmmn sounds like a Mag-10 pulse? or like a banana/fruit with some lean protein throughout the day?

You’d need a double pulse (at least) to get to at least 20g