You should have by now read the Hypertrophy Cluster Training – Key Principles to Growth and the full details of the HCT-12 Training Program and you’re therefore ready for the nutritional program.
The aim of any diet is to provide the necessary calories and macronutrients to support your goals. Determining the amounts is the tricky bit and it is highly individualized.
I wrote two articles (Nutrient Timing – When Science and Marketing Collide & To Bulk or to Cut, That is the Question – or is it?) which better explain the methods outlined below and the science behind them for anyone interested in digging a little deeper.
There are in my experience, three dietary approaches, which I have outlined separately below:
1) The lifter with over 20% body fat. For these guys, simply making better food choices and not getting caught up in the details will take them into the next group.
2) The sub 20% to 10% body fat lifter. The recommendations below are for these guys
3) The sub 10% body fat lifter. The basics still hold true for these guys, and clearly if they’re muscular too, they’ll likely know what they’re doing! They’ll be stricter in their approach (if remaining at that condition is the goal) and more than likely some manipulation of the variables (carb cycling will be required). We have had some great guys write some awesome articles on this very subject, so I’ll refer you them if you are in this group or want to get in it – Wannabebig Diet and Nutrition articles.
STARTING YOUR IDEAL NUTRITIONAL PROTOCOL
Establish your daily calorie needs. If you know this, then move on. If not, you have two choices:
1) Use the multipliers below to determine current maintenance and add or subtract by 5-10% depending on whether you plan to lose or gain weight.
2) Choose a target bodyweight and multiply by the same figures below.
This might look simplistic, but you can either spend the next hour going through various convoluted equations and come to the same answer or just pick one of the following, and multiply your current or target bodyweight by either, depending on your activity level:
- 14 – Low Activity (1-3 hours a week)
- 16 – Medium Activity (4-7 hours a week)
- 19 – High Activity (8-11 hours a week)
So, if you are a 250-pound guy looking to hit 235-pound, training four hours per week, 3760 kcal (235 x 16) is your target intake every day. Or, if you don’t want to eat for your target bodyweight, preferring to utilize your maintenance plus or minus for your intake, you can still use the process above but use your current bodyweight. So, if you are 250-pounds training four hours per week, your maintenance is 4000 kcal (250×16). Add or subtract by 5-10% depending on whether you want to gain or lose weight.
Monitor your progress every couple of weeks (remember that these equations are based on an assumption that you’re average). If you need to put on weight to reach your goal and you are not, increase the calories by 250 kcal and monitor progress for two weeks. Similarly reduce by 250 kcal if you need to lose weight and progress is not being made.
SETTING PROTEIN, CARBOHYDRATE AND FAT INTAKE
1) My preference is to set protein intake as constant, between one to two grams per pound of lean target or current bodyweight. Your fat intake should cover your requirements for Essential Fatty Acids (approx 20 grams). Beyond that, it is your choice how many carbohydrate calories you displace with fat, based on your individual tolerance for carbohydrates.
As we go through this process, keep in mind the calorific value of each macronutrient. One gram of protein is the equivalent of 4 kcal. One gram of carbohydrate is also 4 kcal and one gram of fat yields 9 kcal.
In this example, our target is 3760 kcal. Protein is a constant and set at 1.5g/lb which is 322grams (1.5 x 215) per day. Fat is set at a minimum 0.5g/lb bodyweight, which is 118 grams (0.5 x 235) per day. After these two values are set, it is simply a case of adding enough carbohydrate and additional fat and/or protein to hit the total.
Carbohydrate is matched to activity and tolerance. In this example we currently have 322 grams of protein and 118 grams of fat, which is 2350 kcal (322x4kcal + 118×9 kcal). This is 1410 kcal short of the total. To hit 1410 kcal you’d need approximately 350 grams (1410/4) of carbohydrate. So our guy’s daily total will be 322 grams of protein, 350 grams of carbohydrate and 118 grams of fat, for a total of 3760 kcal per day.
However, there’s no set rule for carbohydrate intake and you could just as easily split the remaining 1410 kcal between fat and carbohydrate.
2) Load your food intake to coincide with breakfast and the pre and post workout period (i.e. try and eat the majority of your calories around breakfast and training). See below for details.
3) Divide the rest into as many meals as necessary to hit your daily intake target and consume when convenient.
PRE, DURING AND POST WORKOUT NUTRITION
The objective of any workout nutrition protocol is to maximize muscle protein synthesis (kick-started by your training) and minimize protein breakdown. In other words, increase anabolism and curtail catabolism.
Here are my specific recommendations for pre and post-workout meals. You don’t have to follow them; you could just follow the instructions above and eat normally, but if you do follow them, remember, this eating does not occur in a vacuum. It does count towards your daily total, so bear that in mind when you’re eating the rest of the day.
60-90 minutes pre-workout, have a solid, balanced meal:
- Protein = 0.25g/lb BW (or Target Bodyweight)
- Carbs = 0.25g/lb BW (or TBW)
- Amount of fat doesn’t really matter as long as it fits into your total for the day
30-0 minutes pre-workout - (and/or sipped throughout the workout), have a liquid or easily digested meal:
- Protein = 0.25g/lb BW (or TBW)
- Carbs = 0.25g/lb BW (or TBW)
Within 1hr minutes post-workout, have either a liquid or solid meal:
- Protein = 0.25g/lb BW (or TBW)
- Carbs = 0.25-0.5g/lb BW (or TBW)
The amount of fat doesn’t really matter as long as it fits into your total for the day.
We’ve refrained from going into detail with food sources and meal plans because quite frankly this information is already covered in our existing nutritional articles.
Make nutrition a priority in your life and you will be amazed at the progress that is possible
And there you have it, a straight forward approach to eating appropriately for your goals. We encourage you to make nutrition a priority in your life, not only so that you can achieve your specific fitness goals, but also to keep fit and healthy. If you do, you will be amazed at how great you feel and the progress that is possible.
If you want to maximize your gains, you’ll need to take advantage of proper supplementation and this is covered in Hypertrophy Cluster Training – Supplementation Program.
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question about this article or would like to discuss or ask anything about Hypertrophy Cluster Training (HCT-12), head on over to the Hypertrophy Cluster Training (HCT-12) Forum.
You may also want to read Hypertrophy Cluster Training (HCT-12) – FAQ.