The following article was written by Makwa
What I want to outline here is how I went about my final week (peak week) to prepare for my last bodybuilding competition. Peak week is perhaps the most confusing week out of the whole competition prep. What do I do about sodium, how do a manage carbs, how do I manipulate water, how should I be working out? You can see why it can become so confusing because there are so many variables to deal with and they are all interrelated to one other. You talk to 10 different bodybuilders and you are probably going to get 10 different ways on how they prepare for their peak week. What I am outlining here is what I think is a pretty safe strategy for you to follow to polish up your physique. It worked for me and I was “dialed in” come show time. So for your first show don’t try something radical because it can easily backfire on you and ruin your show.
It goes without saying but if you are not already lean enough by the final week before the show, none of this is going to help you. You should basically be ready to step on stage 1 week before your show. What we are doing this final week is just fine tuning everything to take you to the next level and win your comp. Now, let’s get to it.
What’s the Deal with Sodium?
You probably already know that how much water your body holds is closely related to the amounts of sodium in your body. There is a caveat though; your body can only hold so much water regardless of how much sodium you are consuming. Consuming higher amounts of sodium before peak weak is actually going to help you shed more water when you cut sodium during peak week. So don’t be shy with the sodium going into peak week. I didn’t worry about sodium before peak week. If I wanted salt on my food I put it on and didn’t worry about. I was consuming 4-6 grams/day. So don’t worry about sauces or whatever you are putting on your food that may have a lot of sodium in it. Enjoy your sodium while you can.
Alright, it is peak week now and we have to start monitoring sodium. Your body has become accustomed to the higher sodium levels so now once you start dropping them your body will purge all of its excess water.
Here is how I manipulated my sodium:
Day 7 (7days out from show) I cut my sodium in half. So I went from 4g down to 2g/d. Day 6 I cut that in half again (1g). Days 5,4,3 sodium was cut in half again (500mg/d). On days 2 and 1 sodium was kept as low as possible. Those final days when keeping sodium as low as possible you have to read the label on everything you eat or drink. Make sure that chicken breast you are eating has not been injected with a saline solution to keep it juicy (most of them are). You should only be buying chicken, beef, fish, etc. that lists the sodium content on the label so you know what it is. Say goodbye to your sauces and marinades also during these final two days. Eggs are going to be off your list these last two days also. One egg has 65mg sodium in it. Watch your protein powders also. Some of mine had over 220mg sodium/serving while others had only 35mg.
What’s the Deal with Carbs?
Come peak weak you should already be eating a low carb diet to maximize fat loss. I was eating 150g/day going into peak week. I would have liked to have been closer to 100g/day but I just wasn’t functioning right on that low of carbs. Anyway, come peak week it is time for a drastic cut in carbs to really deplete your glycogen levels. You are going to feel like utter crap (at least I did) with your carbs really low so be prepared.
Here is why you are cutting those carbs:
- It is going to accelerate your fat burning to help get rid of those few stubborn fat deposits that you have been trying to work off
- It is going to deplete your glycogen stores. Here is a little primer on glycogen. The glycogen that is stored in your muscles holds water, that glycogen actually pulls water into the muscles to help plump them up. So the more glycogen your muscles are holding the more water that is going to be pulled into them and the “plumper” your muscles are going to look. These low carb days are going to make you look flat because your muscles are depleted of glycogen so don’t freak out. The reason you are doing this is explained in point 3
- It has been shown that when you deplete the glycogen in your muscles you can actually store more glycogen in them when you carb load later in the week. More glycogen equates to bigger muscles
Process for Carb Depleting
What I did for cutting carbs during peak week was to cut my normal carb amount (150 g/d) in half. So for days 7,6,5 I was shooting for around 75g/d. I actually got down to about 50g/day but you don’t want to go to low so don’t shoot for zero carbs. Try to keep it ½ your normal amount or slightly less. When you do eat carbs on those days, most of them should be consumed post-workout.
On days 4 and 3 try cutting your carbs in half again. So from my 75g/day I was shooting for around 30-40g day. These are a tough couple of days, but the fun is about to begin when you actually get to carb load.
Process for Carb Loading
All right, you are two days away from your show. Now you get to carb load. Yeah!! Now you are going to turn into a big shredded mofo. Day 2 here is probably the most critical day for carb loading. Shoot for at least 3x your normal carb intake. My normal was around 150g/d so day 2 I was shooting for around 450g. Day 1 (the day before the show) you’ll have to make a decision. If you are looking flat shoot for 3x your daily carb intake again. If you had some spillover from too many carbs and are looking smooth back the carb loading down to 2x your daily intake.
Some notes to keep in mind while carb loading:
- You can pound down fast or slow digesting carbs. My favorites were white potatoes, sweet potatoes and Willy Wonka bottle caps and sweet tarts (contain only dextrose and maltodextrin which are perfect for carb loading), and Bear Naked granola
- Oatmeal, rice, pasta are probably not so good during this time since these carb sources contain a lot of water once prepared which we are trying to reduce (more on this later)
- Watch the sodium in your carb sources. Why did I choose the carb sources I used above? Damn near zero sodium in them
- Watch how much fruit you eat. It is fine for the first day of loading but skip it the day before contest (day 1). Fruit contains mainly fructose which is converted to glucose in the liver but if your liver is full of glucose now from the first day of loading, fructose gets converted into fat instead. Not what we are looking for. So stay away from candy that contains fructose and fruits or anything else with fructose or high fructose corn syrup etc
Water is important here just like everything else so measure it out. For most of your prep you should be drinking a minimum of 2gal of water a day. One week out from peak week I bumped my water intake up to 3 gal/d. This helps with flushing out all that sodium you are eating and helps to rid your body of excess water.
Days 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 out from show you should be drinking as much water as humanly possible. I was hitting 3-3.5 gal/d. Day 2 cut that back to a half gallon. Day 1 keep it under 16oz. Your veins are going to be popping now.
On the day of the show try not to drink anything until pre-judging is over. Then just sip water throughout the day as needed. You are going to be sweating your ass off out on stage so if you need to don’t be afraid to drink a cup or two to help from cramping out or even passing out.
Notes on water intake:
- To help shed even more water those final two days before the show I used natural diuretics like dandelion root and vitamin C. I used pure dandelion extract and put a few droppers full into everything I drank. I also pounded 10g/d vitamin C those last 2 days
- What is happening these last 2 days when you are cutting water is that with all of your carb loading these last two days the water that that glycogen needs has to come from somewhere and it pulls all of the subq water from under your skin helping to make your skin look like saran wrap
Working Out and Cardio
You are not going to set any personal bests working out this final week. The goal here is just to help deplete the glycogen in your muscles. Work out your legs and abs first on day 7 and that is the last time you should work them out for the week. Legs and abs look best when they are not pumped up so also be sure not to pump them up backstage or you will start to lose definition. On days 6,5,4,3 you should do a complete upper body workout each day. Pick an exercise and do 3-4 sets for each body part and just repeat the next day. You could switch it up with a different exercise if you want. Shoot for 15-20 reps each set. You should not be lifting heavy this week. Continue with your morning fasted cardio days 7-3 also. Stick with Low intensity steady state.
This is important. On days 2 and 1 before your show you do not want to do any cardio or workouts. Your sole purpose these last two days is to carb load your muscles and working out is counterproductive to that goal. You want to carb load and take it easy. Just practice your posing and routine these last two days. That is all the working out you need.