T Nation Article

Discussion in 'Hypertrophy-Specific Training (HST)' started by Old and Grey, Dec 18, 2016.

  1. Old and Grey

    Old and Grey Super Moderator Staff Member

    Can You Build Muscle on a Diet?
    by Benjamin Liu


    Many on here will dispute what this article states but I have found it to be true...especially the part about dirty bulking. I do, however, dispute the 500 calorie deficit statement (I would buy into 200 calories deficit) but agree wholeheartedly with the maintenance statement.

    "Some say you can't gain muscle when you're in a caloric deficit. Kill that myth. The amount of muscle you gain depends a lot on: how advanced you are, how much time you have to train, how much rest you get, and how you eat.

    Eating right, training, and recovering properly are the most important factors in gaining muscle, and as long as you're not in a huge deficit (more than 500 calories) you'll still make gains. But won't the person eating in a surplus make MORE gains?

    Yes, possibly, but not by much. And for the "dirty bulker," when it comes time to lose fat, they often find the extreme change in diet stressful both on their mind and body. They might even start losing muscle during their cut or develop metabolic damage.

    The Value of Maintenance Mode

    Over the span of a few years, the lifter who eats a balanced diet at or around maintenance level calories will likely make better gains than the individual who's constantly switching between bulking and cutting cycles. If you do choose to do a traditional bulk and cut, those methods should only be used temporarily, not long-term. Rule of thumb: Don't use your training goals as an excuse to binge on donuts."
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2016
    adpowah likes this.
  2. adpowah

    adpowah Active Member

    I've been on a "cut" for the last two cycles and lost about 8lbs (which is pretty slow, basically .5lbs a week). I was able to gain a small amount of muscle in that time too by increasing the variety of my lifts and since I had really previously only focused on the big 3 I was able to find a good deal of gains considering my diet. That being said I won't just be able to ride this training to my genetic limit, so while I have gained a small amount of rep strength on the big three I wouldn't be surprised if my top end is flat or slightly down.

    I feel there is a time for heavy lifting and heavy eating...it just can't be all the time.
  3. benben2356

    benben2356 Member

    Great article ...

    I've always stayed at around maintenance and only upped calories by very small amounts each time gains stop and I feel in not recovering.

    I do tend to gain strength better in a big surplus as I found recently in my first HST cycle - also the extra energy allows me to do more volume.

    But I'd never stay at such a large surplus for more than a month ...

    It's kind of a trump card I like to pull out when I feel I'm starting to struggle ....
  4. Totentanz

    Totentanz Super Moderator Staff Member

    I actually agree with the main point of the article. This is something a lot of people probably need to read. However, I also think it is important to distinguish between a "traditional bulk and cut" and what bulking/cutting should actually be. Bulking and cutting gets a bad reputation because of too many idiots who don't realize that both approaches require discipline if you are going to do it properly.

    Bulking (properly) doesn't mean eating whatever you want all day, every day. I count calories more meticulously when bulking than I do when cutting. You need to manage your surplus and keep macros in line to manage weight gain so that you are only gaining a certain amount (averaged over time) each week rather than packing on pounds like crazy. Part of the problem with bulking is that too many people hear of steroid users who pretend to be natural, who pack on 20-30 lbs in a single cycle, and they expect to be able to do this as well. Or they gained a ton when they were making their newbie gains and expect gains to proceed like this forever.
    No. Bulking is something that shouldn't be rushed and should be managed properly. Too many people eat massive surpluses and sure, they make muscle gains but they also gain a ton of fat. Once they get to a certain fat level, they decide to switch to cutting to get rid of the fat. Since they gained so fast, they aren't able to bulk for as long as they could have if they managed fat gains better. Keep in mind that there is a limit to how much muscle you can put on in a certain time frame - not so with fat. Bulking for longer, while managing fat gain, means you have more time to gain more muscle. A shorter window of bulking means less muscle gain.

    Cutting should be easier. You just come up with a few meal plans that fit your calorie intake, then eat those each day, right? You'd think so. But with cutting, protein intake becomes even more important than while bulking, and many people make a huge error by not getting enough protein while cutting. Also, cutting too fast in addition to not getting enough protein, while not lifting properly, equates to losing too much lean mass. This invalidates any results that were gained while bulking. This is another area where people using assistance have caused a lot of misconceptions. When someone is replacing thyroid and testosterone as they lean out, they sidestep the issues a natural will face while cutting, allowing more rapid progress without losing muscle. A natural then expects to be able to cut like crazy and lose nothing. Most don't realize that cutting takes A LONG TIME if you do it right. But no, they WANT RESULTS NOW, so they take a massive deficit without enough protein, without maintaining intensity while reducing volume appropriately, and then wonder why they get all weak suddenly.

    Then, to top it all off, people do this: They stop cutting a few weeks after they start. Muscles become deflated as they stop storing as much carbs/water - the person panics and thinks they are losing all their muscle. They immediately switch to a bulk to try to gain back what they lost. Without a proper transition between cutting and bulking, they gain more fat at first than they would normally since hormones are all out of wack. Plus fat and muscle cells swell with nutrients, making them believe they are gaining tons of fat within just a couple weeks. So they switch to cutting again... rinse, repeat until a year or two later, they have made almost no progress at all.

    Basically, what my point is... Consistency is the key. In this, I agree wholeheartedly with the article. Stick to your plans and that's when you'll make gains. As the article states, someone eating at maintenance and sticking to their goals with training will most likely make better gains than the guy I'm talking about who keeps switching back and forth between bulking/cutting. This is also important with regards to your actual training plan, not just diet.

    As a real world example, there was a fellow who joined this site around the same time I did. He was a little bigger than me at the start, I was about 20-30 lbs lighter. I stuck to HST and stuck to Bryan's guidelines for eating for size, starting using Lyle's diet plans for cutting whenever the bodyfat got too high. The other guy... he did HST for a while, but kept switching between bulking and cutting. Then he dropped HST for something else. Then switched to another routine, always looking for the perfect design to make maximum gains.
    I recall when I finally hit 220 lbs BW during a bulk some years later, and this guy posts a picture of himself still at around the same weight as when we both joined the site. Why had I made so much progress when he looked almost identical to how he did when we both started HST? Was it because HST is magic, or because I have awesome genetics? No. HST is a great plan, but the reason for the disparity was because I stuck to my plans even when life hit me with setbacks, while this guy never stuck to a plan for long enough to see it through. There are plenty of other examples of people on this site who have built impressive physiques or made some awesome accomplishments by sticking to their plans. One current member that comes to mind is Lol, when he posted a picture at the end of a cut. He'd gotten down to like 170 or 180, and basically looked like someone that belonged on the cover of a fitness magazine.
    adpowah and Old and Grey like this.

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