Bearded Beast of Duloc
Join Date: Jul 2009
Training Exp: 20+ years
Training Type: Powerbuilding
Fav Exercise: Deadlift
Fav Supp: Butter
That approach, for people unaware, is basically 2 weeks of bulking followed by 2 weeks of lower calories. It's similar in nature to what Layne Norton does.
There is evidence that the human body is equipped to handle an excessive caloric intake for short periods of time. During shorter bulking periods, the body packs on muscle mass, becoming extremely anabolic. Also during this time, from my understanding, the body slowly transitions from muscle building mode to full-on fat storage mode.
I have discussed this style of eating with Casey Butt. I referenced the studies to Casey, and this was his response:
Hormonal response to overfeeding
Short-term, mixed-diet overfeeding in man: no e... [Am J Physiol. 1985] - PubMed - NCBI
Me: What is your take on these studies, how much of a factor is diet in the gaining of muscle mass, and how would you recommend a typical hardgainer eat if they have a difficult time adding any weight? And to throw in another question: is dirty bulking "evil", as some make it seem?
Casey Butt: I think all experienced bodybuilders have observed the phenomenon of rapid gains during short periods of overfeeding, particularly when people go on vacation or end a long low-calorie diet. However, the key thing to keep in mind here is the time frame over which the body reacts 'favorably' to the increase in calories.
Very simply, the body exists in essentially two states: energy surplus or energy deficit. In an energy deficit the body will decrease its expression of enzymes responsible for fat storage (lipoprotein lipase, etc), while increasing fat release from adipose cells. This is to provide the body with the energy it needs to maintain metabolism under a calorie deficit (after all, the major purpose of body fat is to provide a source of stored energy). At the same time, in the absence of high insulin levels in response to blood glucose, insulin receptors will uncover on the surface of muscle cells, increasing insulin sensitivity - with little glucose and protein available, the muscle cell will increase it's efficiency of uptake and utilization of these now very much in demand substances. Likewise, growth hormone, IGF-1 and testosterone levels, all of which increase metabolism and lean body mass, decrease when dietary calories are low.
Under these conditions the body has become a very efficient machine at releasing and burning fat from the fat cells and shuttling glucose and nutrients preferentially into the muscle cells (I'm simplifying the situation by neglecting the over-riding needs of the major organs, nervous system, etc).
In a calorie surplus, however, the body will go into a storage mode. In the presence of constantly high insulin, insulin receptors on the surface of muscle cells will "retract" into the cell membrane and become less "sensitive" to the presence of insulin ("insulin resistance"). High levels of fatty acids and glucose in the bloodstream will cause fat cells to up regulate enzymes responsible for fat production and storage. You are now a fat storing machine.
The key to the preferential deposition of lean body mass, as shown in the above studies during over-eating, lies in the short term nature of the response. Insulin sensitivity and fat storage enzyme activities don't suddenly change dramatically in a few hours or overnight. If the body reacted that quickly to changing environments it would bang back and forth constantly in a never-ending oscillation of metabolically costly adaptations. Evolution isn't that stupid (or perhaps it was but those species never lived that long) and so the adaption to sudden over- or under-eating takes time.
In one of the studies you mentioned (G. Forbes, M. Brown, S. Welle, and L. Underwood, "Hormonal response to overfeeding", Am J Clin Nutr, 1989; 49: 608-11) it was found that elevated testosterone, IGF-1 and insulin levels in response to over-eating all peaked at around 14 days and began to decline thereafter. Perhaps even more importantly, in the presence of high blood sugar and insulin levels fat cells start to increase insulin transporter expression at about two weeks, and that also corresponds with the time it takes for muscle cells to start exhibiting insulin resistance - after a few weeks of over-eating things are starting to go sour.
So, as you can see, the happy situation of preferentially putting on muscle just because you're eating like a pig simply can't last - if it did, formerly obese people would be cleaning up in bodybuilding competitions, but it just doesn't work that way. I over-ate for 18 years and it didn't do anything for me. As I mentioned earlier, bodybuilders often experience quick "rebound" muscle gains when they start eating "normally" again after a long cutting period. In such a circumstance they're coming out of a situation where their muscles are very insulin sensitive and their fat cells are metabolically "geared" to release fat, not store it, and so gains come fast and relatively easily for as long as that situation lasts. A person can experience something similar, though to a lesser degree, by simply over-eating for a few weeks after a period of eating maintenance level calories. However, like I said, you've only got a few weeks to play and then you must pay. If a bodybuilder wants to exploit the anabolic effects of over-eating then I suggest they do it for two weeks or so and then either go on a cut or eat maintenance calorie levels for at least an equal period of time.
As for "dirty bulking" I'd have to say that it's basic macro-nutrients that are most important - calories, carbs, proteins and fats - so "quality" is secondary to "quantity" in this instance. Having said that, it is a known fact that certain dietary components influence testosterone levels and, therefore, could be expected to affect the results of a "bulk". To maximize testosterone levels I'd recommend 30-35% of daily calories from fats with 2/3rds of those being saturated. I'd avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats) under any circumstances. I'd also recommend at least daily meals of red meat and eggs for the cholesterol, which is crucial to testosterone production in natural athletes. I wouldn't go overboard with protein as excessively high protein intakes decrease testosterone levels. As for carbs, I can't think that it would matter much as to whether "fast" or "slow", "clean" or "dirty" carbs were consumed because with such a high calorie intake, insulin levels would be elevated practically all of the time anyway.
The only significant adjustments I'd make as a long-term eating plan for a natural trainee, other than lowering the calories back down to a sustainable level, would be to limit quick-digesting carbs to breakfast and immediately after training. I'd also try to take in a quick-digesting protein at those times as well. At practically all other times, slow carbs and proteins are the way to go.
Basically the take home point is that there is a transition period during undereating and overeating where the body becomes more efficient at storing fat or burning energy. This is common sense. The body is going to look for a consistent state before it reacts full force.
Looking at overeating, or bulking, it would appear that while the the body is transitioning into full blown fat storage mode over 12-14 days that it has a tendency/willingness to add muscle tissue.
So is this bulking system "better"? Perhaps not, but it's certainly viable and a way to build muscle over time while adding deconditioning periods where you are prepping the body for the next 2 week bulk run.
It could be run 2 weeks bulk, 2 weeks small deficit.
Destroy That Which Destroys You
"Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado."
Last edited by BendtheBar; 03-13-2012 at 12:22 PM.