T Nation

Joel, Vain, et al: 2 thoughts on nutrition for hypertrophy

(1) In everyone’s experience, do you find that after a cutting cycle, you can gain muscle a SMALL caloric surplus, less than 500 calories? I wonder whether for many people (those without particularly good genetics or hormonal profiles, or those with low LBM) lowering calories below maintanence for a week and then raising them slightly above maintanence for 2 or 3 weeks may be a leaner path to muscle gain than the “bulking” phase.

(2) I’ve been reviewing some of Don Alessi’s nutritional recommendations for hypertrophy. I noticed that a reason they may be effective is as a method of nutrient partitioning on a large-scale. On bulking days, Don is switching his clients from “white” to “red” protein sources, causing a moderate increase in daily calories from fat, probably not even 500 kcal. Then, with the carb refeeds, there’s a whopping intake of carb calories (without increased rate of de novo lipogenesis). The liver will store most of these carbs, and this glycogen becomes the “foundation” for a caloric surplus built on with subsequent increased fat intake. And on the cutting days, clients reduce fat intake and burn more bodyfat then muscle, regardless of how many carbs are in the liver. Poliquin’s bulking method seems to work on this refeed principle too. His lean trainees consume 1000s of carb calories on their re-feed days. Can anyone think of a way to adapt this technique to non-ketogenic dieting, or does this require the so-called “metabolic shift”?

I wish there was a small window I could see your original post as I punch in with my reply…I hope I hit your points.

First and foremost, I do believe that if one is shreded they can gain muscle with a relatively* small calorie surplus. Again, its all a matter of degree. When I speak of shredded, I think of approx. 5% body fat or so. In this case, due to the bout of dieting, one’s metabolic rate will be lowered, as will much of their key hormonal milieu. Upon re-introduction of surplus calories, your metabolic rate is lower, thus one will make out becuase excess calories (due to reduced metabolic rate) will be the foundation for muscle hyptrophy. Furthermore, as shown in many studies, the key metbolic parameters that are lowered during dieting are raised back above baseline levels (pre-diet) following a cessation of the diet and acute refeed. Thus one gets a transitory increase in such metabolic bad boys such as T, IGF-1, and the like. What an ideal time to take advantage of a transition from homeostasis (previous dieting).

Regarding Alessi’s dieting principles. This might surprise you, but I do agree with much of what he says. In regards to CHO refeeds or loads en absentia of a low-carb/keto style diet, I would say this is NOT a good idea. The purpose of the low carb situation is to empty glycogen. Without this scenario, one’s refeed could not be as tweeked as possible. Another advantage is that during the transition phases, the body’s hormonal profile undergoes significant changes that can accelerate fat loss, as well as protect against unecessary fat gain when bulking. I believe his approach is very good for getting very lean, staying that way, or putting on a certain amount of lean mass.

I feel like I am not saying enough, but I’ll come back to this.

Good points, Vain. I wasn’t thinking of the situation when shredded. But of course, when the metabolism has been signficantly lowered, a 500 kcal surplus, or a calorie surplus of any specific amount, occurs with much less daily calories. My question may have to do with the proportion of fat vs. muscle you will put on during a caloric surplus. After a diet, will that proportion be favored toward muscle with +300 daily kcal and favored toward fat at 500 or higher? Intuitively, I think this is the case in the short term.

On the other side of this issue, Berardi once questioned whether there is a “fat threshold,” i.e. a certain amount of surplus calories at which the body doesn’t increase its rate of fat deposition but significantly increases protein synthesis. Besides, Berardi is often working with guys who have a lot of muscle mass, doing a heck of a lot of cardio. I would think these guys are the ones who would benefit the most from a “bulking phase.” I wouldn’t tell a 5’5" woman who wants to gain some muscle, “just eat 500-750 more calories per day for 3 weeks, then diet off the fat later.”

As for the Alessi question, could some kind of carb cycling make a carb re-feed on a non-ketogenic diet feasible?

With regards to your first comment I was thinking the exact same thing about myself this morning (although I’m not
“shredded”, I’d say I’m around 8-9% bf.) I just came off a one week diet, and upped my calories slightly. I was looking in the mirror today and noticed my biceps looked like they made serious gains within the week (maybe it’s just a prolonged pump but I’m lacking the DMOS).
I think Insulin spikes have something to do with the growth as well. I usually use ketogenic diets to lean out…but when I start to up my calories, I usually introduce another carb meal, which should induce a large insulin spike since the body is unaccustom (and should be sensitive). I think this should add to the hypertrophy. But that’s just me assuming.