It’s reported that Vince Gironda—one of the original bodybuilding legends—once said, “Bodybuilding is 80% diet.” If you consider this for a moment you realize that he was right.
You can lift all the weights you want and train until you pass out but without a proper diet the effort will be wasted.
If you want to get bigger and stronger the body requires a healthy influx of proteins, carbs and fats in order to provide a suitable environment in order to repair and grow muscle. The foods we eat provide the energy the body needs to trigger the release of anabolic hormones such as growth hormone, which directly impacts muscle growth and repair.
Though we can pick and choose the foods we eat, the underlying desire to eat is driven by our basic survival mechanism, which regulates a biological function that tells our brains when we need to start (and stop) eating to meet our immediate nutrition and energy needs.
For the bodybuilder, the mechanism that regulates feeding cycles is of particular interest specifically because of its ability to
manipulate muscle growth and repair by driving the production of growth hormone. This biological function is influenced by both internal and external factors including the perceived availability of food and the presence of danger. When the body believes that food is scarce—or could be in short supply in the near future—or that danger may be looming, it takes steps to ensure its survival by telling the brain it needs to eat more food to make certain that there is a steady supply of available nutrients. Periods of undereating are conditions that indicate to the body that a potential food shortage may be at hand. In response, the brain initiates an overeating response to ensure that there are sufficient supplies of nutrition and energy available for use.
Part of this response also includes triggering the release of growth hormone, the purpose of which is to maintain muscle mass during those times when we don’t have access to food. Growth hormone is a critical component of the survival mechanism because without it, our ancestors would have wasted away when food was scarce, making them easy prey for other predators.
In the modern world, growth hormone is not especially necessary to help us survive in the wild but it is very important to helping us grow bigger and stronger muscles. And today, thanks to our knowledge of how our hormonal systems function, we have the ability to manipulate the survival mechanism that regulates feeding cycles specifically for the purposing of triggering the release of growth hormone and the powerful anabolic potential it represents.
Researchers have found that our feeding cycles are primarily based on periods of undereating and overeating, each of which stimulates the release of peptides, chemicals and hormones. In turn, these agents signal other processes linked to our survival mechanism. For example, periods of under eating tell the brain to release chemicals that tell us we’re hungry and that we need to eat. Likewise, once we’ve eaten a meal, the brain releases agents that inhibit hunger, essentially telling us that we’re full and don’t need to consume more food. Obviously, with obesity in the United States at an all-time high, external factors have been introduced that have thrown the natural systems that would otherwise prevent us from obese, into a total state of chaos.
As noted, evidence indicates that a feeding cycle based on periods of undereating followed by healthy nourishment signals our primal survival mechanism to release growth hormone. However, in modern society we’ve grown accustomed to eating whenever we want, giving little or no thought to how this habit impacts our natural feeding cycles. By not allowing the body to ‘experience’ periods of hunger, we throw the cycles off balance, inhibiting the release of growth hormone and other important agents. Consequently, as a society we’ve grown lazy and obese. Interestingly, a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that nearly one-half of U.S. adults have difficulty sleeping. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep or poor sleeping habits also inhibit the body’s production of anabolic agents such as growth hormone.
The onset of sleeping difficulties can be linked to feeding cycles thrown into disarray. Feeding cycles that include periods of hunger, energy expenditure (exercise) followed by periods of nourishment and relaxation stimulate the release of growth hormone and tell our bodies it’s time to rest by sleeping. A good night’s sleep maximizes the muscle building and regenerating properties of growth hormone on the body. So if you want to increase your body’s production of growth hormone and fully realize all the health and muscle building benefits it offers, you need to pay attention to your natural feeding cycles and stop eating whenever you feel like it.
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This reminds me a lot of Hybrid Diet approach created strength coaches Mike Westerdal and Elliott Hulse. The goal of this diet is to force your body to use pure fat for energy while preserving or even BUILDING lean muscle mass! By “partitioning” our nutrients into different days of the week, we could ensure that only the muscles would be fed while the fat would be starved.
In fact, by cycling days of Over-Feeding with days of Under-Feeding we can force our body to become a more efficient fat burning machine. Much of this has to do with the hormone responses and has very little to do with calorie counting (which is great since nobody likes counting calories).
There are days when you deplete the muscles of vital nutrients, but then you rapidly “RELOAD” the muscle at the exact time they are begging to grow!
Implement an approach like this to your own training program and you can practically double your lean muscle building and fat burning results.
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