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Some thoughts on achieving hypertrophy during a "cutting" cycle.

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    Some thoughts on achieving hypertrophy during a "cutting" cycle.






    It is an often repeated belief that, independent of drugs or some fortunate genetics, it is not possible to simultaneously increase muscle and strength while decreasing caloric intake. And, while this is somewhat true, it is not always true.

    And at least, the idea that you can't put on mass while shredding body-fat is certainly not an impossible one. In fact, given the appropriate circumstances, well timed nutrient ingestion relative to workout, and and an extreme, super demanding stimulus (one that instigates a muscle as well as a neurological reaction) the body can go into an alarm response that disrupts the natural homeostasis of the body, reacts to that "threat" as a matter of priority; and continues to shed body fat in the process.

    I am not referring to coordinative strength increases, either. It is indeed possible to maintain strength during a cut with a lot more ease. What I'm presenting is that traditional sarcollemic and sarcoplasmic muscle increases are possible.

    A lot has to be taken into account here, though. The nature of the muscle work would have to be brief, but extreme. While in a calorie deficit the necessary balance of amino-acids and glycogen must be delivered at a time where those nutrients can not be afforded to be wasted by the body. In states of alarm, the nervous system can fine tune mechanical efficiency resulting in less waste. Lowering body temperature, immediately shuffling proteins to damaged muscle filaments (allowing for a lower percentage of overall degradation in the conversion process), adjusting resting heart rate, and metabolizing fat are some of the ways the body can do this.

    There's two sides of this, though. For one the body usually slows down under a calorie deficient condition. With less food and more fat being lost, the body is just as preferential at dispensing with muscle than the rest. Thus is the problem referenced above: the best you can traditionally hope to do while cutting is to maintain strength, and even then you'll likely not come out with any loss of muscle.

    However, in accordance with the SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) principle, there are a few ways to temporarily short circuit the "starvation" response and go anabolic and catabolic concurrently. The best example of what extreme, brutally intense training can do to a physique is reflecting in a sprinter. Sprinters, actually performing VERY little work relative to their counterpart long distance runners, by and large are: more muscular, carry less body fat, and look denser. World class sprinters do very little long distance running, instead focus on bouts of raw energy, and their adaptive response makes that case for them. I don't want people to lose sight of this in general, either. When you do endurance style activity, your body is not going to prioritize getting rid of fat! It will most likely prioritize shrinking out the muscle! The body recognizes that FAT is what it needs to sustain the lifestyle imposed on it. Contrarily, the larger muscle and the glycogen supplies that accompany them become expendable. All the endurance athletes I worked with, all of them, looked proportionally atrophied and flat. Their conditioning is impeccable because it follows a physiological principle of specificity. You can't optimize two things at once.

    What happens then when a sprinter and his fat levels? In accordance with the oft-referenced SAID principle, IT DIMINISHES. To be fast, your limitation is the adipose tissue slowing you down. To be enduring, your limitation is biologically expensive and less conditioned fast-twitch muscle.

    And while the sprinters have body fat percentages that are low, long distance runners (despite "burning" far more calories) typically look flabbier, less developed, and are more prone to have distorted posture. Slow-oxidative fibers perform all the action here, and the fast twitchers atrophy. Optimizing one path will, by necessity, diminish the other to some degree.

    Example: If you look at the spine, you will notice a variety of compromises engineered for function. Composed of three layers, the hard resisant outer portion is walled with collagen fibers organized together at 30 degree angles. The way they are bound offers imperfect but relatively exceptional protection for compressive and angular force. Inside is predominantly glycosaminoglycan (saccharides). Combining with water, they become semi-viscous and act as an impulse responsive shock absorber. The third portion is involved with the flow of material in and out of the vertebrae. What seems to have been ignored in most of the anatomy classes I've taken is the lower lumbar muscles and the way that they anchor the entire system. The muscles around the hip are always compressing and stretching. If you turn left or right, the torquing movement is absorbed by these muscles and largely responsible for 90 percent of people not having some nerve or spinal cord injury.

    Good design is identifying the function, and working to achieve what is necessary in the best way possible! Of course, the backbone could have been HARDER but then we would not be able to move. The bones could have been rubbery but then we wouldn't be able to stand. Essentially, for the function of human beings, the spine stands as a perfect compromise.

    Now, proceeding to the point, our bodies operate on similar principles. You can't be OPTIMALLY powerful and OPTIMALLY efficient at the same time. Think about a drag racer. Extra heat, noise, and displacement are examples of energy that is WASTED by the motor as it climbs up the ladder of power-expression. A drag racer can't maintain that intensity for 100 miles. As the motor works at that level, the gas conversion is less efficient, the heat lost eventually warps the internal components, and the louder noise it makes is energy wasted, too. A smaller motor, because of the less demanding nature of its design, eliminates those problems and will be able to do far more WORK (force x displacement) but fall way short of POWER (work / time).

    As our bodies engage stimulus, they respond to meet that stimulus as a threat. Physical adaptation is the body adjusting; compromising for a better opportunity to survive. There are very few options for the muscle system when it is stimulated by barbell: increase diameter of the muscle (which usually accompanies a glycogen increase in the sarcoplasm), code for a more efficient movement pattern, do both, or succumb to the exhaustive state. The good news is that even in a caloric deficit, with the right proportions and timing of nutrients, you won't hit that exhaustive state immediately. From my experience the only way to get the optimized response is to impose demands on the body that damn near make you sick.


    More on my experience when I was still training, there is a correlation between "shaky" and "uncoordinated" weight training movements and poor neurological adaptation. The story is that at the time, having a very advanced level of muscle, impressing my body to respond and generate already expensive tissue would be difficult. So I picked exercises I had not done in years, exercises that made me look relatively weak, and i worked out with a demanding intensity that took advantage of my neurological unfamiliarity. My own personal belief (and this is case study analysis, not deductive) is that IF a familiar exercise is used by a trainee and he becomes prolific at that exercise, DESPITE the intensity or pushing to muscle failure (or what have you), the net demand experienced by the body will be substantially lower. Even though there is a true MUSCULAR imposition, the nervous system is not in a panicked condition because it demonstrates control over the imposition by being effectively tuned with the motion. However, when a developed muscle is exercised with a movement it is NOT FAMILIAR with, not only is the muscle itself TAXED more (more motor units must be fired to compensate for the lack of precision) but the nervous system itself will arrive in a higher state of alarm. The demands, now increased to a level that is disrupting the entire static environment the body prioritizes most, disrupt the body dramatically. Biologically threatened into heterostasis, the body ALWAYS responds severely. Viruses and bacteria and gun shot wounds are some of the things that disrupt this condition.

    And I'm not saying the nervous system does not get taxed enough with traditional weight training, it most certainly does. I'm drawing a point to the NATURE of the demands and what I think is required for someone to achieve it.

    Finalizing my story: After two weeks, having doubled the volume, lowering the rest sets, and increasing the tension time (all while maintaining form and gradually increasing weight), I had managed to increase every body measurement except for my waist. Having lost close to a half inch in that time and a belt notch. My calorie deficit was 500 a day, meticulously taken, and the deficit was not modified despite my higher physical energy expenditure. I alertly timed all the glucose and protein supplements i took to correspond with my bodies need for them. Shifting a hungry body into an anabolic condition is about 1)stimulus and 2)macro-nutrient timing. I stopped after the brief two weeks because I'm certain such conditions would have destroyed my health. What made me decide to not continue was a sporadic eye twitch that developed the day after my final workout.

    Having put forth my insight on this topic, I am aware that such exhausting procedures can not last long. I would hypothesize that more than 10-20 days featuring more than 7 or 8 workouts would cause a vicious overtrained state. Don't underestimate how stressful exercise is on the body. Maintaining this kind of program, especially on a calorie deficit, will probably make you sick as hell and atrophy your muscle like a penis is cold water. Differing opinions, I'd love to hear!
    "in the howling bleeding nights, the dogs plunge into the Volga and swim desperately to gain the other bank. The nights of Stalingrad are a terror for them. Animals flee this hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only men endure."

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    Following that logic, could it be beneficial to have alternating cutting routines that utilize movements that you do not do anytime else?

    For the sake of example, you have two cutting routines, one with squats and one with dips. If you are only cutting once a year and do not utilize those exercises in any other routine, then it should be a net of two years before you hit the original routine again and hopefully the "unfamiliar" movement.
    Ron Paul 2012

    No gym for home, work out floor with 30, but is it for 20 like 30 lb when you no lift it to be for men, for 30 lbs instead? or half is 10 for 20 pounds?

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    Quote Originally Posted by danzik17 View Post
    Following that logic, could it be beneficial to have alternating cutting routines that utilize movements that you do not do anytime else?

    For the sake of example, you have two cutting routines, one with squats and one with dips. If you are only cutting once a year and do not utilize those exercises in any other routine, then it should be a net of two years before you hit the original routine again and hopefully the "unfamiliar" movement.
    Yes, I believe that makes perfect sense.
    "in the howling bleeding nights, the dogs plunge into the Volga and swim desperately to gain the other bank. The nights of Stalingrad are a terror for them. Animals flee this hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only men endure."

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    Another reason why this is the only forum I read...articles like this and those featured in the "stickies".

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    The catecholamine response due to intense but unfamiliar work is to be sure a profound benefit during a cut. Indeed, it is the principal behind Lyle McDonald's stubborn fat loss protocol - although he of course did not discover it. The groundbreaking research due to Romijn JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, et al., published in 1993, showed that shortly following intense exercise, there is an overshoot of FFAs that are mobilized by the catecholamines it promotes. This is one of the reasons why HIIT is so effective at mobilizing fat stores.

    Romijn JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, et al., Regulation of endogenous fat and carbohydrate metabolism in relation to exercise intensity and duration. Am J Physiol. Sep 1993;265(3 Pt 1):E380-391

    Muscle growth is stimulated through a different mechanism - my understanding is that it basically comes down to microtrauma in conjunction with sufficient raw materials to rebuild and reinforce. I'm not clear on how the unfamiliarity of the modality will assist in this endeavour. Can you expand a bit for me? I'm trying to wrap my head around this. It certainly agrees with the anecdotal wisdom of changing the stimulus to keep your workouts fresh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Built View Post
    The catecholamine response due to intense but unfamiliar work is to be sure a profound benefit during a cut. Indeed, it is the principal behind Lyle McDonald's stubborn fat loss protocol - although he of course did not discover it. The groundbreaking research due to Romijn JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, et al., published in 1993, showed that shortly following intense exercise, there is an overshoot of FFAs that are mobilized by the catecholamines it promotes. This is one of the reasons why HIIT is so effective at mobilizing fat stores.

    Romijn JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, et al., Regulation of endogenous fat and carbohydrate metabolism in relation to exercise intensity and duration. Am J Physiol. Sep 1993;265(3 Pt 1):E380-391

    Muscle growth is stimulated through a different mechanism - my understanding is that it basically comes down to microtrauma in conjunction with sufficient raw materials to rebuild and reinforce. I'm not clear on how the unfamiliarity of the modality will assist in this endeavour. Can you expand a bit for me? I'm trying to wrap my head around this. It certainly agrees with the anecdotal wisdom of changing the stimulus to keep your workouts fresh.
    This process depends on the timing nutritional intake. Caloric deficits create a catabolic response by definition, as the body is getting insufficient energy. This deficit traditionally won't allow for muscle tissue synthesis because of insufficient raw material, hormonal response that is prioritizing storage break-down, and primarily for survival priority where biologically expensive muscle loses importance.

    The body operates prioritizing these survival responses. When the stimulus becomes sufficiently demanding to prioritize hypertrophy, this method becomes effective. Having no other resource for energy because of the calorie deficit, the body fat reduction will continue.

    However, the system will not work without very carefully timed ingestion of glucse and protein supplements. With or without a caloric deficit, exercise devastates the body resource-wise. Nitrogen balance drops, net protein turnover goes negative, and the muscles become glycogen deficient. After an especially brutal workout while in a "cut" the food you eat MUST be there in GOOD proportions to let the stimulus response maximize itself.

    Here are a few links regarding effects of timing carbohydrate and protein supplementation with exercise (I can't find my entire list, sorry).

    Gleeson, M. Lancaster, "Nutrtional strategies to minizimize exercise-induced immunosuppression in athletes."
    Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26 s23-S35, 2001.

    Ivy, J.L. "Dietary strategies to promote glycogen synthesis after exercise," Candian Journal of Applie Physiology, 26. S-236-245 2001

    Levenhagen, D.K. et al. "Post exercise protein intake enhances whole-body and leg protein accretion in humans," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 34; 828-838, 2002.

    Levenhagen, D.K. et al. "Post exercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis," American Journal Physiology, 280;E982-993, 2001.

    Suzuki, M. et al. "Effect of meal timing after resistance exercise on hind limb muscle mass and fat accumulation in trained rats." Journal of Nutritional Science and vitaminology, 45; 401-409, 1999.

    Van Loon, L.J.C., Saris, W.H.M, et al. "Plasma insulin responses following the ingestion of different amino acid and/or protein mixtures with carbohydrate," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72;96-105, 2000.
    "in the howling bleeding nights, the dogs plunge into the Volga and swim desperately to gain the other bank. The nights of Stalingrad are a terror for them. Animals flee this hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only men endure."

  7. #7
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    Nice writeup.

    Quote Originally Posted by Duncans Donuts View Post
    What made me decide to not continue was a sporadic eye twitch that developed the day after my final workout.
    I get these eye twitches on and off as well. I thought they were strictly diet related.

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    Involuntary persistent muscle spasms/twitches have a few causes. Extreme nervous system fatigue is a prime one. Biological machinery endures overwhelming trauma on the microscopic level during bouts of high force production.

    As the demands increase during just one working set, internal friction within the muscle likewise increase during each repetition. As each repetition becomes more demanding, individual filaments fracture or partially fracture leaving non operational units increasing the resistance. That resistance also has to be overcome by the muscle's pull. The process also generates heat.

    The nervous system itself utilizes a painfully complicated chemical and electrical communication. Transmission takes place through gap junctions, which are protein channels, that link the cellular contents of adjacent neurons. Synchronizing muscles in high performance situations increases "lost energy"; the nervous system is almost unfathomably sophisticated, with an average human adult having between 8 and 10 quadrillion chemical synapses. Let me illustrate what we're working with to be mobile creatures:

    The process begins with the brain, directing the muscle group in question to perform work. Diffusion occurs between the nerve gap (synaptic cleft) of acetylcholine (ACh), which attaches to cholinergic receptors of the motor end plate. The result of this action is the gate-release of ion channels of the plate with sodium flowing inward and potassium out, depolarizing the end plate and instigating an action potential. The end plate potential itself is NOT itself an action potential.

    At this point the action potential transfers through a network of canals (T-tubules) that travel through muscle cells and the bundles of contracting proteins (actin/nebulin and myosin/titin). The excited system causes a cascading release of calcium into the sarcoplasm around the myofilaments; calcium, in effect, "grabs" troponin. Troponin is attached to tropomyosin between the cross-bridge sections of the sarcomere, and the calcium-troponin attachment pulls the impeding tropomyosin from the cross-bridge. Tropomyosin is sarcomeric traffic stuck at a red light; calcium is like the traffic light turning green, except instead of staying in front the cars all turn left and get out of the way.

    Muscles work on ratchet like principles. Myosin twists as it attaches to the myosin-actin interface and pulls the filaments together, shortening. The process depends on A GREAT DEAL OF FRICTION! As the myosin torques, the protein is damaged. Under extreme demands and pushing the motor units to exhausting muscle fatigue, the ratio of broken heads to sturdy heads increases. The damaged proteins, as well as the activation of more and more motor units, increases the number of activated myosin-actin shortening, generating more internal muscle friction. More muscle friction equals more resistance that has to be overcome by the muscle itself.

    With 10 quadrillion synapses, the nervous system is under a fantastic load damn near all the time. It is absolutely phenomenal. During weight training, the nervous system really can be pushed to exhausting, depleted levels. EVEN WITH LOW VOLUME! The severest imposition on any machine is when it is pushed to an extreme, even briefly, not when it's operating in a range of low demands. Think about the red line on a car engine. Trying to go one mile pushing the red line is more draining than going 10 miles moderately. Looking at the neurological fatigue just in reference to diet will have you miss several points.

    Think of your body as a company that builds houses, and you are the boss. Every day you get exactly enough lumber to build 2 residences a day; you have the right raw material, labor, and experience. Then one day you instruct the company to build 4 houses a day, and likewise adjust your raw materials so you have enough lumber for it. After a few days, though, you notice that the rate of progress is slowing down. Just because there is enough lumber to perform doesn't mean that the workers can utilize it just because it is there.

    In this analogy the neuromuscular system is just like the worker. You can improve performance by increasing the skill (efficiency, nervous system) or the size of the work force (muscle). Having a good nutrition plan during such extreme conditions is a NECESSARY condition for the trainee, but it does not assure that exhaustion still won't occur.

    Factors involved with nervous system and musculature alarm and exhaustion is: chemical and electrical signaling networks that, taxed beyond normal, suffer a heavy biological impact. Damaged proteins and glycogen used for ATP production needs to be repaired and replaced by the body immediately. Pressure, friction, and heat on muscle cells themselves can also cause damage. There is also a load imposed on all the bodies muscle and their nerves during compound lifts, sprinting, and even standing (the former more demanding than the latter) NOT just the muscles/nerves being worked at the time.

    Remember that the body deals with stress both locally AND systematically. Remember the mention of damaged proteins and cells in the worked muscle? Those corrections have to be removed or repaired, which is not always fast.

    I personally think that most people underestimate the potential of over-training the nervous system, although I think the potential deflates rapidly as intensity decreases. I do believe that weight training in most degrees is a high strain on the body, but it seems between two adaptive options replenishing and tuning the nervous system is less stressful on the body than synthesizing more force potential via muscle gains. Most advanced lifters, as well as people who follow a rarely changing routine, suffer from this. At some point near the maximum genetic limit of our muscles, the nervous system "uses what it has" to accomplish the work preferential to generating size increases.

    Good book on the topic:

    Principles of Neural Science, 4th edition, New York: McGraw-Hill.

    I have a box of several hundred physiology journals, if any of ya'll want me go reference rooting let me know.
    "in the howling bleeding nights, the dogs plunge into the Volga and swim desperately to gain the other bank. The nights of Stalingrad are a terror for them. Animals flee this hell; the hardest stones cannot bear it for long; only men endure."

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    Quote Originally Posted by rahaas View Post
    Another reason why this is the only forum I read...articles like this and those featured in the "stickies".
    Yes, I also agree.

    Don't hold back on your thoughts Duncan, this was a good read.

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    Thanks Duncan. Now tell us what you really think!

    Thanks for the detailed explanation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BulkMeUp View Post
    Thanks Duncan. Now tell us what you really think!

    Thanks for the detailed explanation.


    Recitation is the best way to memorize something. I've found being punctiliously detailed (aka long-winded) helps keep the noodle sharp.
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    Great posts! I just finished an exam on the subject and I have another one coming up soon. These posts are a concise and clear reminder of (part of) the curriculum.

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    Care to share more specific information about the exercise selection, loading parameters, and maybe even nutritional plan that you followed during this cut? I'm about to cut now, and I would be very interested to know.

    I understand the main principle: try to introduce your body to novel stimuli, or at least stimuli that you haven't been exposed to recently.
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